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and Freedom J 

In the Age of Modern Science 
Edited by Sidney Hook 

William Barrett, iVIax Black, Brand Blanshard, 
Ernest Nagel, F. S. C. Morthrop and many others 

Is man responsible for his 

actions? Does present 

scientific knowledge modify 

concepts of law and chance? 


>*> .; ^ 




Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

Lyrasis IVIembers and Sloan Foundation 

Determinism and Freedom in the 
Age of Modern Science 





//,■ : 


This Collier Books edition is published by arrangement with New 
York University Press. 

Collier Books is a division of The Crowell-Collier Publishing 

First Collier Books Edition 1961 

© 1958 by New York University 

Hecho en Ids E.E.U.U. 

Printed in the United States of America 

The contents of this volume comprise the Proceedings 
of the first annual New York University Institute of 
Philosophy, held at Washington Square, New York, 
February 9 and 10, 1957. 


The new york University Institute of Philosophy is an experi- 
ment designed to further fruitful discussion in philosophy. 
The annual regional meetings of the American Philosophical 
Association perform an excellent and indispensable profes- 
sional function. But because of the large number of persons 
involved, the broad scope of the programs, and the adherence 
to fixed time schedules — natural limitations of all gatherings 
of this kind — it seems desirable to multiply opportunities for 
free and sustained interchange of views. Toward this end we 
therefore resolved to try something new: to select one philo- 
sophical topic or theme for intensive discussion by a small 
group of philosophers and other scholars and thinkers deeply 
concerned with it, and willing to explore it together around 
a long seminar table. We hope our action will inspire similar 
efforts in other regions of the country. 

Our great problem was to keep the number of participants 
within reasonable compass without making invidious distinc- 
tions. No inference is to be made as to a philosopher's emi- 
nence or professional qualification to analyze the theme under 
discussion on the basis of his absence from this Institute. For 
obvious reasons geographical considerations played a large 
role. Nonetheless we hope to establish a revolving member- 
ship for our Institute so that before long all philosophers with 
a strong interest in the themes under discussion and within 
easy traveling distance from New York City will on one or 
another occasion join us as participants in the Institute. 

On the other hand, the choice of a theme for our first Insti- 
tute was not very much a problem. "Determinism and Free- 
dom" is not only a perennial philosophical issue but seems 
today to be moving once more into the forefront of intellec- 
tual concern. For example, almost contemporary with our 
Proceedings, the January 1957 issue of Mind contains two 
long articles on the subject, and the issue before that includes 
a piece in which it is argued that the entire notion of "moral 
responsibility" is moribund and should be extruded from 
vocabulary of intelligible expressions. ^ Our theme was selected 
long before these and similar articles appeared. 

Not only professional philosophers but also our colleagues 

^ W. I. Matson, "On the Irrelevance of Free Will to Moral Responsibility, 
and the Vacuity of the Latter," Mind (October 1956). 


8 / Preface 

in other fields are astir over the issue. Three converging tend- 
encies of thought have contributed to a revival of interest in 
the question of determinism and freedom. 

The first is political and social. Whereas in the past the ex- 
tension of the deterministic philosophy in the natural sciences 
was hailed as a support of human freedom because it in- 
creased man's power of control over nature, today belief in 
determinism in the social sciences and social affairs is feared 
by many because it increases the power of men to control 
other men. Some individuals confess that it is not only Or- 
well's scientifically controlled 1984 that causes their hackles 
to rise in fear but even the picture of comparatively sunny 
communities like that drawn in Skinner's Walden II. In some 
quarters this reaction has gone so far that even the term 
"planning" and the notion of a "planned society," which a 
short generation ago was the hallmark of a rational social 
philosophy, are viewed with suspicion as suggesting, if not 
evidencing, a conspiracy against human freedom. 

The second reason for a revival of interest in our theme is 
that in the very stronghold of traditional determinism, the 
natural sciences, the field in which determinism celebrated its 
greatest triumph, the belief in the doctrine or postulate of 
universal determinism seems to have been surrendered in an 
effort to understand the world of subatomic behavior. The 
actual relevance of these glad tidings to the momentous issues 
of human freedom and responsibility remains to be estab- 
lished. But in the writings of several eminent scientists it has 
been eloquently proclaimed. 

The third reason for the actualite of our theme derives from 
growth of interest in modern psychology, psychiatry, and 
psychoanalysis in all their scientific and mythological forms. 
The apparent upshot of the acceptance of determinism in ex- 
plaining the human psyche is the belief that the more we learn 
about a man's past history, the less he seems responsible for 
his present behavior. This conclusion has affected thinking 
and practice in law, pedagogy, and social work, and has pro- 
duced something of a revolution in penology. Sometimes its 
proponents rather inconsistently blame us for blaming Hitler 
and Stalin for the crimes they voluntarily committed, on the 
ground that since Hitler and Stalin were once babies — hard as 
it is to imagine — they must have inherited or acquired the 
comr'exes and obsessional drives that caused them to do what 
they couldn't help doing. Even when pruned of inconsistency, 
this argument threatens to produce a revolution in moral 

Preface / 9 

theory by asserting that the concept of moral responsibility is 
completely vacuous. 

The strategy of our discussion it to begin with an analysis 
of the general concept of determinism, to proceed to the 
notion of determinism in physics, and to conclude with a dis- 
cussion of freedom and responsibility in law and ethics. 

The papers of the readers and selected commentators are 
here reproduced substantially in the form in which they were 
presented to the Institute. Most of the other comments by 
participants in the Institute are elaborations of comments and 
criticisms made after the papers were presented. Some of the 
comments are a result of post-Institute reflection on the 
spirited give and take among the participants, which technical 
difficulties prevented us from reproducing in their entirety. 

Sidney Hook 

New York University 


by President Carroll V. Newsom, 
New York University 

Part I Determinism in Philosophy 


by Brand Blanshard, Yale University 


by Max Black, Cornell University 


by William Barrett, New York University 
Part II Determinism in Modem Science 


by Percy W. Bridgman, Harvard University 


by Milton K. Munitz, New York University 


by Alfred Lande, Ohio State University 


by Dennis W. Sciama, Trinity College, 
Cambridge University 

Part III Determinism and Responsibility 
in Law and Ethics 


by H. L. A. Hart, Oxford University 


by Paul Edwards, New York University 


vy^ by John Hospers, Brooklyn College 

12 / Contents 
Part IV Discussion 

1 "excusing conditions" and moral responsibility 145 

by Elizabeth Lane Beardsley, Lincoln 


by Richard Brandt, Swarthmore College 


by Percy W. Bridgman, Harvard University 


by Roderick W. Chisholm, Brown University 


by C. J. Ducasse, Brown University 


By Carl G. Hempel, Princeton University 


by Howard W, Hintz, Brooklyn College 


by Sidney Hook, New York University 



by Abba Lemer, Roosevelt College 


by Ernest Nagel, Columbia University 


by F. S. C. Northrop, School of Law, Yale 


by Arthur Pap, Yale University 


by Alfred Schultz, New School for 
Social Research 

Contents / 13 


by Dennis W. Sciama, Trinity College, 
Cambridge University 


by Richard Taylor, Brown University 


by Paul Weiss, Yale University 


by H. Van R. Wilson, Brooklyn College 

INDEX 245 

{From the welcoming address to participants in the first New York University 
Institute of Philisophy) 

In behalf of New York University it gives me great pleasure 
to welcome the participants to this the first meeting of the 
New York University Institute of Philosophy. A university 
exists to achieve many purposes. But however varied its pur- 
poses, the spirit of the university is found at its best only 
where men are found thinking together. Thinking together is 
something more than explicit teaching and learning, although 
it may be that, too. It is a process of mutual stimulus and 
response in which our minds become clearer, even when they 
are not altered by the give and take of intellectual exchange. 
It is a process whose outcome determines whether our ideas 
— most of them held with equal initial conviction — are firm 
principles or only familiar prejudices. Sometimes thinking 
together is not only a dialogue that contributes to conceptual 
clarification and self-understanding but a common voyage of 
intellectual discovery. Even when discoveries are made by a 
solitary thinker, they are not seldom influenced by the funded 
results of previous thinking together. 

The New York University Institute of Philosophy has in- 
vited not only distinguished philosophers from other leading 
universities to these deliberations but representatives of other 
disciplines. This expresses a unity or convergence of interest 
on common problems, not a unity of doctrine or point of 
view. In a world where specialization tends to make every 
scholar in the university an expert and none able to under- 
stand or talk to his colleague, opportunities for intellectual 
co-operation should be encouraged. 

I therefore hope that this series of meetings will be the first 
of a long line of similar proceedings contributing to the en- 
richment of intellectual life in America. 

Carroll V. Newsom 

President, New York University 



Determinism in Philosophy 

Chapter 1 

The Case for Determiiissm 

Brand Blanshard, Yale University 

I AM A DETERMiNisT. NoDc of the arguments oflfered on the 
other side seem of much weight except one form of the moral 
argument, and that itself is far from decisive. Perhaps the 
most useful thing I can do in this paper is explain why the 
cormnoner arguments for indeterminism do not, to my mind, 
carry conviction. In the course of this explanation the brand 
of determinism to which I am inclined should become gradu- 
ally apparent. 

But first a definition or two. Determinism is easier to de- 
fine than indeterminism, and at first glance there seems to be 
no difficulty in saying what one means by it. It is the view that ^ 
all events are caused. But unless one also says what one means 
by "event" and "caused," there is Ukely to be trouble later. 
Do I include among events not only changes but the lack of 
change, not only the fall of the water over the cataract's edge, 
but the persistence of ice in the frozen river? The answer is 
"Yes." By an event I mean any change or persistence of state 
or position. And what is meant by saying that an event is 
caused? The natural answer is that the event is so connected 
with some preceding event that unless the latter had occurred 
the former would not have occurred. Indeterminism means 
the denial of this. And the denial of this is the statement that 
there is at least one event to which no preceding event is 
necessary. But that gets us into trouble at once, for it is doubt- 
ful if any indeterminist would want to make such an assertion. 
What he wants to say is that his decision to tell the truth is 
undetermined, not that there is no preceding event necessary 
to it. He would not contend, for example, that he could tell 
the truth if he had never been bom. No, the casual statement 
to which the indeterminist takes exception is a different one. 
He is not saying that there is any event to which some nam- 
able antecedents are not necessary; he is saying that there are 
some events whose antecedents do not make them necessary. 
I He is not denying that all consequents have necessary ante- 
cedents; he is denying that all antecedents have necessary 
consequents.' He is saying that the state of things just before 


20 / Determinism and Freedom 

he decided to tell the truth might have been exactly what it 
was and yet he might have decided to tell a lie. 

By determinism, then, I mean the view that every event A 
is so C9nnected with a later event B that, given A, B must 
occur. ByCindeterminism I mean the view that there is some 
event B that is not so connected with any previous event A 
that, given A, it must occur. Now, what is meant here by 
"must"? We cannot in the end evade that question, but I hope 
you will not take it as an evasion if at this point I am content 
to let you fill in the blank in any way you wish. Make it a 
logical "must," if you care to, or a physical or metaphysical 
"must," or even the watered-down "must" that means "A is 
always in fact followed by B." We can discuss the issue use- 
fully though we leave ourselves some latitude on this point. 

With these definitions in mind, let us ask what are the most 
important grounds for indeterminism. This is not the same as 
asking what commonly moves people to be indeterminists; the 
answer to that seems to me all too easy. Everyone vaguely 
knows that to be undetermined is to be free, and everyone 
wants to be free. My question is rather. When reflective 
people accept the indeterminist view nowadays, what con- 
siderations seem most cogent to them? It seems to me that 
there are three: first, the stubborn feeling of freedom, which 
seems to resist all dialectical solvents; second, the conviction 
that natural science itself has now gone over to the indeter- 
minist side; and, third, that determinism would make nonsense 
of moral responsibility. The third of these seems to me the 
most important, but I must try to explain why none of them 
seem to me conclusive. 

One of the clearest heads that ever devoted itself to this old 
issue was Henry Sidgwick. Sidgwick noted that, if at any given 
moment we stop to think about it, we always feel as if more 
than one course were open to us, that we could speak or be 
silent, lift our hand or not lift it. If the determinist is right, 
this must be an illusion, of course, for whatever we might 
have done, there must have been a cause, given which we had 
to do what we did. Now, a mere intuitive assurance about our- 
selves may be a very weak ground for belief; Freud has shown 
us that we may be profoundly deceived about how we really 
feel or why we act as we do. But the curious point is that, 
though a man who hates his father without knowing it can 
usually be shown that he does and can often be cured of his 
feeling, no amount of dialectic seems to shake our feeling of 
being free to perform either of two proposed acts. By this 

The Case for Determinism / 21 

feeling of being free I do not mean merely the freedom to do 
what we choose. No one on either side questions that we have 
that sort of freedom, but it is obviously not the sort of free- 
dom that the indeterminist wants, since it is consistent with 
determinism of the most rigid sort. The real issue, so far as 
the will is concerned, is not whether we can do what we 
choose to do, but whether we can choose our own choice, 
whether the choice itself issues in accordance with law from 
some antecedent. And the feeling of freedom that is relevant 
as evidence is the feeling of an open future as regards the 
choice itself. After the noise of argument has died down, a 
sort of intuition stubbornly remains that we can not only lift 
our hand if we choose, but that the choice itself is open to us. 
It this not an impressive fact? 

No, I do not think it is. The first reason is that when we 
are making a choice our faces are always turned toward the 
future, toward the consequences that one act or the other 
will bring us, never toward the past with its possible sources 
of constraint. Hence these sources are not noticed. Hence we 
remain unaware that we are under constraint at all. Hence we 
feel free from such constraint. The case is almost as simple as 
that. When you consider buying a new typewriter your thought 
is fixed on the pleasure and advantage you would gain from it, 
or the drain it would make on your budget. You are not delv- 
ing into the causes that led to your taking pleasure in the 
prospect of owning a typewriter or to your having a complex 
about expenditure. You are too much preoccupied with the 
ends to which the choice would be a means to give any atten- 
tion to the causes of which your choice may be an effect. But 
that is no reason for thinking that if you did preoccupy your- 
self with these causes you would not find them at work. You 
may remember that Sir Francis Galton was so much im- 
pressed with this possibility that for some time he kept account 
in a notebook of the occasions on which he made important 
choices with a full measure of this feeling of freedom; then 
shortly after each choice he turned his eye backward in search 
of constraints that might have been acting on him stealthily. 
He found it so easy to bring such constraining factors to light 
that he surrendered to the determinist view. 

But this, you may say, is not enough. Our preoccupation 
with the future may show why we are not aware of the con- 
straints acting on us, and hence why we do not feel bound by 
them; it does not explain why our sense of freedom persists 
after the constraints are disclosed to us. By disclosing the 

22 / Determinism and Freedom 

causes of some fear, for example, psychoanalytic therapy can 
remove the fear, and when these causes are brought to light, 
the fear commonly does go. How is it, then, that when the 
causes of our volition are brought to light volition continues 
to feel as free as before? Does this not show that it is really 
independent of those causes? 

No again. The two cases are not parallel. The man with the 
panic fear of dogs is investing all dogs with the qualities — 
remembered, though in disguised form — of the monster that 
frightened him as a child. When this monster and his relation 
to it are brought to light, so that they can be dissociated from 
the Fidos and Towsers around him, the fear goes, because its 
appropriate object has gone. It is quite different with our feel- 
ing of freedom. We feel free, it was suggested, because we are 
not aware of the forces acting on us. Now, in spite of the 
determinist's conviction that when a choice is made there are 
always causal influences at work, he does not pretend to reveal 
the influences at work in our present choice. The chooser's 
face is always turned forward; his present choice is always 
unique; and no matter how much he knows about the will and 
the laws, his present choice always emerges out of deep 
shadow. The determinist who buys a typewriter is as little 
interested at the moment in the strings that may be pulling at 
him from his physiological or subconscious cellars as his 
indeterminist colleague, and hence feels just as free. Thus, 
whereas the new knowledge gained through psychoanalysis 
does remove the grounds of fear, the knowledge gained by the 
determinist is not at ail of the sort that would remove the 
grounds for the feeling of freedom. To make the persistence 
of this feeling in the determinist an argument against his case 
is therefore a confusion. 

The second reason, I suggested, why so many thoughtful 
persons remain indeterminists is that they are convinced that 
science has gone indeterminist. Well, has it? If you follow 
Heisenberg, Eddington, and Born, it has. If you follow Rus- 
sell, Planck, and Einstein, it has not. When such experts dis- 
agree it is no doubt folly for the layman to rush in. But since 
I am discussing the main reasons why people stick to indeter- 
minism, and have admitted that the new physics is one of 
them, I cannot afford to be quite prudent. Let me say, then, 
with much hesitation that, as far as I can follow the argu- 
ment, it provides no good evidence for indeterminism even in 
the physical world, and that, if it did, it would provide no 
good evidence for indeterminism in the realm of will. 

The Case for Determinism / 23 

First as to physical indeterminism. Physicists now tell us 
that descriptive statements about the behavior of bodies are 
really statistical statements. It was known long ago that the 
pressure that makes a football hard is not the simple quality 
one feels in pushing something: it is the beating on the inner 
surface of the football of millions of molecular bullets. We now 
know that each of these bulelts is a swarm of atoms, them- 
selves normally swarms of still minuter somethings, of which 
the proton and the electron are typical. The physicist admits 
that the behavior of an enormous mass of these particles, such 
as a billiard ball, is so stable that we may safely consider it as 
governed by causal law. But that is no reason, he adds, for 
assigning a like stability to the ultimate particles themselves. 
Indeed, there is good reason, namely the principle of indeter- 
minacy, for saying that they sometimes act by mere chance. 
That principle tells us that whereas, when we are talking about 
a billiard ball, we can say that it has a certain momentum and 
direction at point S as a result of having a certain momen- 
tum and direction at point A, we can never say that sort of 
thing about an electron. Why? Because the conditions of ob- 
servation are such that, when they allow us to fix the position 
exactly, they make it impossible to fix the momentum exactly. 
Suppose that we can determine the position of a moving par- 
ticle with more accuracy the shorter the wave length of light 
we use. But suppose that the shorter the wave length, the more 
it interferes with the momentum of the particle, making it leap 
unpredictably about. And suppose there is no way of deter- 
mining the position without in this way leaving the momentum 
vague, or of determining the momentum without leaving the 
position vague. It will then be impossible to state any precise 
law that governs the particle's movement. We can never say 
that such-and-such a momentum at point A was necessarily 
followed by such-and-such a momentum at point B, because 
these statements can have no precise meaning, and can be 
given none, for either antecedent or consequent. Hence to 
speak any longer of nature as governed ultimately by causal 
laws — i.e., statements of precise connection between ante- 
cedent and consequent — is simply out of the question. 

This argument, as Sir David Ross has pointed out, may be 
interpreted in different ways. It may be taken to say that, 
though the particle does have a certain position and momen- 
tum, we can never tell, definitely and for both at the same 
time, what they are. Many interpreters thus understand the 
theory. But so taken, there is of course nothing in it to throw 

24 / Determinism and Freedom 

the slightest doubt on the reign of causality. It is merely a 
statement that in a certain region our knowledge of causal 
law has limits. Secondly, the theory might be taken to mean 
that electrons are not the sort of things that have position and 
momentum at all in the ordinary sense, but are fields, per- 
haps, or widespreading waves. This, too, has no suggestion of 
indeterminism. It would not mean that general statements 
about the nature and behavior of electrons could not be made, 
but only that such statements would not contain references to 
position and momentum. Thirdly, the theory might mean that, 
though these particles do have a position and a momentum, 
the position or momentum is not definitely this rather than 
that. Even laymen must rise at this point and protest, with all 
respect, that this is meaningless. Vagueness in our thought of 
a position makes sense; vagueness of actual position makes 
none. Or, finally, the argument may mean that, though the 
particle does have a definite position and momentum, these 
cannot even in theory be correlated with anything that went 
before. But how could we possibly know this? The only 
ground for accepting it is that we do not know of any such 
correlates. And that is no reason for denying that any exist. 
Indeed, to deny this is to abandon the established assumption 
and practice of science. Science has advanced in the past pre- 
cisely because, when things happened whose causes were un- 
known, it was assumed that they had causes nevertheless. To 
assume that a frustration of present knowledge, even one that 
looks permanent, is a sign of chance in nature is both practic- 
ally uncourageous and theoretically a non sequitur. 

But let us supfKDse that the Eddingtonians are right and that 
what has been called "free will among the electrons" is the 
fact. Would that imply indeterminism in the realm that most 
nearly concerns us, the realm of choice? I cannot see that it 
would. The argument supposed to show that it would is as 
follows: Psychical processes depend on physical processes. 
But physical processes are themselves at bottom unpredict- 
able. Hence the psychical processes dependent on them must 
share this unpredictability. Stated in the abstract, the argu- 
ment sounds impressive. But what does it actually come to? 
We are told that, even if there is inconstancy in the behavior 
of single particles, there is no observable inconstancy in the 
behavior of masses of them; the particles of a billiard ball are 
never able to get together and go on a spree simultaneously. 

The Case for Determinism / 25 

Eddington admitted that they might, just as he admitted that 
an army of monkeys with a million typewriters might produce 
all the books in the British Museum, but he admitted also that 
the chance of a billiard ball's behaving in this way were so 
astronomically remote that he would not believe it if he saw it. 

The question of importance for us, then, is whether, if acts 
of choice are dependent on physical processes at all, they de- 
pend on the behavior of particles singly or on that of masses of 
particles. To this there can be but one answer. They depend 
on mass behavior. An act of choice is an extremely complex 
process. It involves the idea of one or more ends, the associa- 
tion of that idea with more or less numerous other ideas, the 
presence of desires and repulsions, and the operation of habits 
and impulses; indeed, in those choices for which freedom is 
most demanded, the whole personality seems to be at work. 
The cortical basis for so complex a process must be extremely 
broad. But if it is, the great mass of cells involved must, by the 
physicist's admission, act with a high stability, and the corre- 
lated psychical processes must show a similar stability. But 
that is what we mean by action in accordance with causal 
law. So, even if the physicists are right about the unstable be- 
havior of single particles, there is no reason whatever for 
translating this theory into a doctrine of indeterminism for 
human choice. 

We come now to the third of the reasons commonly ad- 
vanced in support of indeterminism. This is that determinism 
makes a mess of morality. The charge has taken many forms. 
We are told that determinism makes praise and blame mean- 
ingless, punishment brutal, remorse pointless, amendment 
hopeless, duty a deceit. All these allegations have been effec- 
tively answered except the one about duty, where I admit I 
am not quite satisfied. But none of them are in the form in 
which determinism most troubles the plain man. What most 
affronts him, I think, is the suggestion that he is only a ma- 
chine, a big foolish clock that seems to itself to be acting 
freely, but whose movements are controlled completely by 
the wheels and weights inside, a Punch-and-Judy show whose 
appearance of doing things because they are right or reason- 
able is a sham because everything is mechanically regulated 
by wires from below. He has no objections to determinism as 
applied by physicists to atoms, by himself to machines, or by 
his doctor to his body. He has an emphatic objection to deter- 
minism as applied by anyone to his reflection and his will, for 

26 / Determinism and Freedom 

this seems to make him a gigantic mechanical toy, or worse, 
a sort of Frankenstein monster. 

In this objection I think we must agree wtih the plain man. 
If anyone were to show me that determinism involved either 
materialism or mechanism, I would renounce it at once, for 
that would be equivalent, in my opinion, to reducing it to 
absurdity. The "physicalism" once proposed by Neurath and 
Carnap as a basis for the scientific study of behavior I could 
not accept for a moment, because it is so dogmatically anti- 
empirical. To use empirical methods means, for me, not to ap- 
proach nature with a preconceived notion as to what facts 
must be like, but to be ready to consider all kinds of alleged 
facts on their merits. Among these the introspectively observ- 
able fact or reflective choice, and the inference to its existence 
in others, are particularly plain, however different from any- 
thing that occurs in the realm of the material or the publicly 
observable or the mechanically controlled. 

Now, what can be meant by saying that such choice, though 
not determined mechanically, is still determined? Are you 
suggesting, it will be asked, that in the realm of reflection and 
choice there operates a different kind of causality from any we 
know in the realm of bodies? My answer is: Yes, just that. To 
put it more particularly, I am suggesting ( 1 ) that even within 
the psychical realm there are different causal levels, (2) that 
a causality of higher level may supervene on one of lower 
level, and (3) that when causality of the highest level is at 
work, we have precisely what the indeterminists, without 
knowing it, want. 

1. First, then, as to causal levels. I am assuming that even 
the indeterminist would admit that most mental events are 
causally governed. No one would want to deny that his 
stepping on a tack had something to do with his feeling pain, 
or that his touching a flame had something to do with his get- 
ting burned, or that his later thought of the flame had some- 
thing to do with his experience of its hotness. A law of associ- 
ation is a causal law of mental events. In one respect it is like 
a law of physical events: in neither case have we any light as 
to why the consequent follows on the antecedent. Hume was 
right about the billiard balls. He was right about the flame 
and the heat; we do not see why something bright and yellow 
should also be hot. He was right about association; we do not 
understand how one idea calls up another; we only know that 
it does. Causality in all such cases means to us little if any- 
thing more than a routine of regular sequence. 

The Case for Determinism / 27 

Is all mental causation like that? Surely not. Consider a 
musician composing a piece or a logician making a deduction. 
Let us make our musician a philosopher also, who after add- 
ing a bar pauses to ask himself, "Why did I add just that?" 
Can we believe he would answer, "Because whenever in the 
past I have had the preceding bars in mind, they have always 
been followed by this bar"? What makes this suggestion so 
inept is partly that he may never have thought of the preced- 
ing bars before, partly that, if he had, the repetition of an 
old sequence would be precisely what he would avoid. No, his 
answer, I think, would be something like this: "I wrote what 
I did because it seemed the right thing to do. I developed my 
theme in the manner demanded to carry it through in an 
aesthetically satisfactory way." In other words, the constraint 
that was really at work in him was not that of association; it 
was something that worked distinctly against association; it 
was the constraint of an aesthetic ideal. And, if so, there is a 
causality of a different level. It is idle to say that the musician 
is wholly in the dark about it. He can see not only that B 
succeeded A; as he looks back, he can see in large measure 
why it did. 

It is the same with logical inference, only more clearly so. 
The thinker starts, let us say, with the idea of a regular solid 
whose faces are squares, and proceeds to develop in thought 
the further characteristics that such a solid must possess. He 
constructs it in imagination and then sees that it must have six 
faces, eight vertices, and twelve edges. Is this association 
merely? It may be. It is, for example, if he merely does in 
imagination what a child does when it counts the edges on a 
lump of sugar. This is not inference and does not feel like it. 
When a person, starting with the thought of a solid with 
square faces, deduces that it must have eight vertices, and 
then asks why he should have thought of that, the natural 
answer is, Because the first property entails the second. Of 
course this is not the only condition, but it seems to me con- 
trary to introspectively plain fact to say that it had nothing to 
do with the movement of thought. It is easy to put this in such 
a way as to invite attack. If we say that the condition of our 
thinking of B is the observed necessity between A and B, we 
are assuming that B is already thought of as a means of ex- 
plaining how it comes to be thought of. But that is not what I 
am saying. I am saying that in thinking at its best thought 
comes under the constraint of necessities in its object, so that 
the objective fact that A necessitates B partially determines 

28 / Determinism and Freedom 

our passing in thought from A to B. Even when the explana- 
tion is put in this form, the objection has been raised that 
necessity is a timeless link between concepts, while causality 
is a temporal bond between events, and that the two must be 
kept sharply apart. To which the answer is: Distinct, yes; but 
always apart, no. A timeless relation may serve perfectly weU 
as the condition of a temporal passage. I hold that in the 
course of our thinking we can easily verify this fact, and, be- 
cause I do, I am not put off by pronouncements about what 
we should and should not be able to see. 

2. My second point about the causal levels is that our 
mental processes seldom move on one level alone. The higher 
is always supervening on the lower and taking over partial 
control. Though brokenly and imperfectly rational, rational 
creatures we still are. It must be admitted that most of our so- 
called thinking moves by association, and is hardly thinking 
at all. But even in the dullest of us "bright shoots of everlast- 
ingness," strands of necessity, aesthetic or logical, from time 
to time appear. "The quarto and folio editions of mankind" 
can follow the argument with fewer lapses than most of us; 
in the texts of the greatest of all dramas, we are told, there 
was seldom a blot or erasure; but Ben Jonson added, and no 
doubt rightly, that there ought to have been a thousand. The 
effort of both thought and art is to escape the arbitrary, the 
merely personal, everything that, causal and capricious, is ir- 
relevant, and to keep to lines appointed by the whole that one 
is constructing. I do not suggest that logical and aesthetic 
necessity are the same. I do say that they are both to be dis- 
tinguished from association or habit as representing a different 
level of control. That control is never complete; all creation 
in thought or art is successful in degree only. It is successful 
in the degree to which it ceases to be an expression of merely 
personal impulses and becomes the instrument of a necessity 
lying in its own subject matter. 

3. This brings us to our last point. Since moral choice, like 
thought and art, moves on different causal levels, it achieves 
freedom, just as they do, only when it is determined by its 
own appropriate necessity. Most of our so-called choices are 
so clearly brought about by association, impulse, and feeling 
that the judicious indeterminist wiU raise no issue about them. 
When we decide to get a drink of water, to take another nibble 
of chocolate, to go to bed at the usual hour, the forces at 
work are too plain to be denied. It is not acts like these on 
which the indeterminist takes his stand. It is rather on those 

The Case for Determinism / 29 

where, with habit, impulse, and association prompting us 
powerfully to do X, we see that we ought to do Y and there- 
fore do it. To suppose that in such cases we are still the pup- 
pets of habit and impulse seems to the indeterminist palpably 

So it does to us. Surely about this the indeterminist is right. 
Action impelled by the sense of duty, as Kant perceived, is ac- 
tion on a different level from anything mechanical or associ- 
ative. But Kant was mistaken in supposing that when we were 
determined by reason we were not determined at all. This 
supposition seems to me wholly unwarranted. The determina- 
tion is still there, but, since it is a determination by the moral 
necessities of the case, it is just what the moral man wants 
and thus is the equivalent of freedom. For the moral man, 
like the logician and the artist, is really seeking self-surrender. 
Through him as through the others an impersonal ideal is 
working, and to the extent that this ideal takes possession of 
him and molds him according to its pattern, he feels free and 
is free. 

The logician is most fully himself when the wind gets into 
his sails and carries him effortlessly along the line of his calcu- 
lations. Many an artist and musician have left it on record that 
their best work was done when the whole they were creating 
took the brush or pen away from them and completed the 
work itself. It determined them, but they were free, because 
to be determined by this whole was at once the secret of their 
craft and the end of their desire. This is the condition of the 
moral man also. He has caught a vision, dimmer perhaps than 
that of the logician or the artist, but equally objective and 
compelling. It is a vision of the good. This good necessitates 
certain things, not as means to ends merely, for that is not 
usually a necessary link, but as integral parts of itself. It re- 
quires that he should put love above hate, that he should re- 
gard his neighbor's good as of like value with his own, that he 
should repair injuries, and express gratitude, and respect prom- 
ises, and revere truth. Of course it does not guide him infall- 
ibly. On the values of a particular case he may easily be mis- 
taken. But that no more shows that there are no values present 
to be estimated, and no ideal demanding a special mode of 
action, than the fact that we make a mistake in adding figures 
shows that there are no figures to be added, or a right way of 
adding them. In both instances what we want is control by 
the objective requirements of the case. The saint, like the 
thinker and the artist, has often said this in so many words. 

30 / Determinism and Freedom 

I feel most free, said St. Paul, precisely when I am most a 

We have now dealt, as best we can in a restricted space, 
with the three commonest objections to determinism. They all 
seem to admit of answers. To the objection that we always feel 
free, we answer that it is natural to feel so, even if we are 
determined, since our faces are set toward results and not to- 
ward causes, and the causes of present action always elude us. 
To the objection that science has gone indeterminist, we an- 
swer that that is only one interpretation of recent discoveries, 
and not the most plausible one, and that, even if it were true, 
it would not carry with it indeterminism for human choice. 
To the objection that determinism would reduce us to the level 
of mechanical puppets, we answer that though we are puppets 
in part we hve, as Aristotle said, on various levels. And so far 
as causality in reflection, art, and moral choice involves con- 
trol by immanent ideal, mechanism has passed over into that 
[rational determinism that is the best kind of freedom. 

Chapter 2 

Max Black, Cornell University 


You ARE TmRSTY, but there is a glass of beer within easy 
reach; you stretch out your hand, bring the glass to your lips, 
and drink. Here is what I call a perfectly clear case of making 
something happen. When you brought the glass nearer, that 
was a perfect instance of what all of us call "making some- 
thing happen."^ But of course many other simple actions 
would serve just as well: closing a window, opening a drawer, 
turning a doorknob, sharpening a pencil. Any number of per- 
fectly clear cases can be found of making something happen. 

The following is not a clear case of making something hap- 
pen. On hearing the opening of this paper, a member of the 
audience leaves the room, to be found later in the nearest 
saloon. To establish that my remarks made him leave the 
room would require a specific investigation. Evidence could 
be obtained for or against the view that talk about drinking 
had made the hearer leave; until such evidence had been pro- 
vided, the final verdict would remain in doubt. 

In the case of the thirsty man reaching for the glass, an 
investigation to determine whether or not he really did move 
the glass would be out of place. There would be an absurdity 
in saying that evidence could be provided for or against the 
view that he had moved the glass; or in saying that whether 
he had made anything happen was a hypothesis. It would be 
absurd to say that there was a question whether he had moved 
the glass, and that the answer would be undecided until 
further evidence had been weighed. 

For what could be the goal of the supposed investigation? 

* Or rather a clear case of "moving a glass." The expression "making 
something happen" is introduced for brevity in referring to similar cases. 
The first part of the paper investigates a class of transitive verbs, like "mov- 
ing," "breaking," "opening," "upsetting," etc., indicated by the blanket ex- 
pression "making something happen." When the expression "making some- 
thing happen" occurs, the reader may usually imagine the more specific 
expression "moving a glass" substituted — with the understanding, however, 
that the discussion is intended to apply indifferently to an entire class of 
similar expressions. 


32 / Determinism and Freedom 

If somebody is not already satisfied that the familiar episode 
is a case of what we ordinarily call "making something hap- 
pen," it is inconceivable that further empirical evidence would 
satisfy him. The supposed investigation would have no termi- 
nus; criteria would be lacking by which to judge the relevance 
and strength of testimony. 

I am trying to affirm something noncontroversial and hence 
acceptable in advance of any philosophical analysis or com- 
mitment. I am contending that we do all treat simple episodes 
like the one I described as perfectly clear cases of making 
something happen. 

We do in fact recognize the absurdity of a supposed attempt 
to find out whether the drinker had made the glass move. 
Suppose I were to say to somebody, "You saw that man reach 
out for that glass of beer just now — well, find out whether 
he moved the glass." I have no doubt that a layman would be 
dumbfounded and quite at a loss to know what could be 
meant. A sufficient reply would be : "Surely, we saw him move 
the glass." If I insisted that I wanted evidence that the drinker 
had moved the glass, my interlocutor might begin to suspect 
the situation was abnormal — for this would be one way of 
making sense of my demand. Suppose we were suddenly to 
see the glass of beer levitate and fly like a homing pigeon 
straight to the drinker's mouth! Then we might rub our eyes 
and begin to wonder whether the man in the armchair had 
really moved the glass the first time. We might then plausibly 
suspect ourselves in some magician's establishment, well 
stocked with trick devices for making objects move in extraor- 
dinary ways. This would be a fantastically abnormal situ- 
ation. In describing the case of the thirsty drinker I wished to 
present a situation that was normal, one whose description was 
intended to exclude monstrosities and miracle. 

I was therefore taking for granted that the person con- 
cerned was neither hypnotized nor walking in his sleep nor 
obeying a neurotic compulsion to reach for the glass nor act- 
ing in response to threats. And I was assuming that the glass 
of beer was an ordinary vessel, having no concealed magnet 
or other special devices and subject to no remote physical or 
mental controls. In short, I was taking for granted that the 
exemplary situation was a perfectly familiar, ordinary case. If 
a situation were not of this familiar sort, it might be necessary 
to investigate and find out whether the man concerned really 
had made something happen. 

So far, I have been contrasting a perfectly clear case of 

Making Something Happen / 33 

making something happen with cases in which an investiga- 
tion would be in order. The latter we might call problematic 
cases. A second kind of contrast could be made between a 
perfectly clear case and a borderline case. 

Suppose you jogged my hand, so that my elbow knocked 
against the glass and spilled its contents. Did / spill the glass, 
or did you in fact do it? Both anwsers are plausible. We are 
inclined to say something like, "I spilled the beer all right, but 
you made me do it, so really you spilled it." Here the presence 
of the qualification "really" in "really you spilled it" is a sign 
that criteria for the use of the expression "making something 
happen" are no longer precise and determinate. We would not 
teach a child what "making something happen" means by cit- 
ing this kind of case or a case in which somebody's involun- 
tary gesture displaced an object. Similarly, we would not teach 
somebody the meaning of "orange" by showing color patches 
that most of us should hesitate to label either orange or 

The uncertainty here is not due to lack of information and 
could not be removed by any empirical investigation. Uncer- 
tainty of application is a feature of our uses of "orange" and 
can be removed only by stipulation. Our use of the expression 
"making something happen" is infected by similar uncertainty. 
Only I should wish to deny that any such uncertainty of ap- 
plication is to be found in the clear case that I began by 

Indeed, if anybody were to show genuine hesitation about 
using the expression "making something happen" in the situa- 
tion described, that would be evidence that he did not really 
understand that expression. If I were teaching a foreigner how 
to use that English expression, a test of my success would be 
his unhesitating identification of the exemplary situation as a 
case of making something happen. (Of course, he must also 
hesitate in borderhne cases.) Should the pupil waver in the 
clear case, we might try to find out whether he suspected some 
hidden mechanism or trick device, i.e., whether he mistakenly 
took the situation to be abnormal. But if he convinced us that 
he fully understood our description of the familiar case, yet 
still did not know whether to say that something had been 
made to happen, we could be sure that efforts to teach him 
the uses of the English expression had not yet succeeded. 

I have said that the case of the thirsty drinker is a perfectly 
clear one of making something happen, leaving no room for 
further empirical investigation — a case neither "problematic" 

34 / Detenninism and Freedom 

nor "borderline." I want to add now that the episode is also a 
paradigm for application of the phrase "making something 
happen." That it is a paradigm is closely connected with its 
being a perfectly clear case; yet to call it a "paradigm" is to 
say something new. 

Suppose we are faced with something that is not a clear 
case of making something happen, and wish to decide whether 
or not to apply the expression. A natural recourse would be 
to compare the doubtful case with some perfectly clear case, 
with a view to finding sufficient similarity or dissimilarity to 
arrive at a correct decision. By treating the clear case as a 
standard we can base our decision to use or withhold the ex- 
pression upon reasons: we appeal to the clear case to resolve 
doubt. It follows, therefore, that no reason can be given why 
the clear case itself should bear the identifying label in ques- 
tion. There is nothing besides itself to which the clear case 
can be compared — nothing else to serve as a standard. The 
absurdity of asking that reasons be given for using the clear 
case as a standard would be just like that of trying to give 
reasons why the standard meter rod is counted as one meter 
in length, or a standard color sample is accepted as "red." 
Should someone demand reasons in defense of calling my 
exemplary instance a case of making something happen, the 
best I could do by way of reply would be to say: "That's what 
I call 'making something happen.' " Now here I am not offer- 
ing a genuine reason, but repudiating the demand for a rea- 
son. The retort "That's what I call 'making something hap- 
pen' " is a way of showing how I use the expression. In mak- 
ing that retort I show that I treat the instance as a paradigm. 
But showing is not arguing, and brandishing a paradigm is not 
offering a reason. 

The case of the thirsty drinker differs from that of the 
meter rod in one important respect. The expression "one meter 
long" is formally defined in terms of a standard measure, 
so that those who understand how the expression is used know 
that a dispute about the correctness of any attribution of met- 
ric length would ultimately have to be resolved by appeal to 
a known and identifiable standard of comparison. But there is 
no formal definition of "making something happen," and of 
course no permanent and identifiable situations to serve as 
standards of comparison. We have a wide range of choice in 
exhibiting "perfectly clear cases," and they are not preserved 
in official bureaus of standards. Nevertheless, we do appeal to 
them in case of doubt— our choice of just those situations as 

Making Something Happen / 35 

acceptable standards being a feature of our use of the expres- 
sion in question. Instead of the unique arbiter, we have, as it 
were, a reserve of available judges, any of which indifferently 
can serve to remind us of our linguistic conventions. Pressed 
to give reasons, we eventually stop at situations of which we 
can say no more than, "That's what I call such-and-such." Our 
choice of halting places shows which instances we in fact treat 
as paradigms. In calling my exemplary situation a paradigm 
for the use of the expression "making something happen," 
therefore, I am claiming that it is useful as a standard for the 
correctness of application of the expression in question. 

Paradigm cases also serve as standards of reference when 
we pass from primitive uses of an expression to other uses 
derived by resemblance, analogy, and metaphorical extension. 
Uses of "making something happen" and cognate expressions 
are strikingly various; yet the paradigm helps to illuminate all 
such uses. The exemplary instance, or sufficiently similar alter- 
natives, functions as a prototype for the derivative uses of 
"making something happen." We refer to it in testing the 
plausibility of analogy and metaphor. 

As we pass from the homespun language of "making some- 
thing happen" to the more sophisticated language of "cause" 
and "effect," the influence of the paradigm remains powerful. 
We continue to model descriptions of cases remote from the 
prototypes on the simpler primitive cases, often by using 
metaphors literally applicable only to those clear cases. In 
order to understand clearly what we mean by "cause" and 
"effect" we must labor to understand what we mean by the 
precausal language in which the more sophisticated vocabulary 
is embedded. 

If my exemplary situation is a clear case (a paradigm, a 
prototype) of making something happen, it follows that it 
would be nonsensical to speak of there being any possible 
doubt whether something was made to happen. This remains 
true, no matter how much the original description of the situ- 
ation might be augmented or elaborated by scientific explana- 
tion, provided only that the additional information did not 
conflict with the original assumption of "normality." A scien- 
tist might explain why the pressure of the fingers required the 
glass to change position without slipping through the hand; 
another scientist mighit offer elaborate explanations of the 
physiology of thirst; a psychologist might connect your pres- 
ent thirst with childhood deprivation. But such accounts, in- 
formative as they might be, would have no tendency to dis- 

36 / Determinism and Freedom 

credit the correctness of the use of the expression "making 
something happen." They could not do so, because the de- 
scription of the paradigm case is complete. If the description 
left gaps to be filled by scientific data as yet unknown, none of 
us would be able to use the expression "making something 
happen" correctly. The expression would be a blank check 
drawn on an uncertain future. 

My chief contention, so far, is the commonplace one that 
it is perfectly certain that persons do sometimes make some- 
thing happen. It might be unnecessary to insist on anything 
so obvious, had not philosophers sometimes claimed to have 
arguments to show that it is logically impossible for anything 
to be a cause, since the notion of a cause is self-contradictory. 
Now, to make something happen is to cause something to 
happen. It is certain therefore that the notion of a cause is 
not self-contradictory. 


Once we are satisfied that we have identified and sufficiently 
described a paradigm for the use of a given expression, we can 
proceed to look for features and criteria of application. That 
is to say, we can ask, "What is it about this clear case that we 
treat as relevant in using it as a standard of comparison?" 
Sometimes the search for criteria leads nowhere: to the ques- 
tion, "What is it about this clear case of red that makes us call 
it 'red'?" there is no answer. But sometimes a demand for cri- 
teria can be met. If the question is raised about our paradigm 
case of making something happen, it can elicit a set of rele- 
vant features, some trite and uninteresting, but others surpris- 
ingly at variance with accepted analyses of causation. I shall 
list some of these features and comment on a few of them. In 
order to save time, I shall refer to the person who moved the 
glass as "P." I shall call the object moved "O," its motion 
"M," and the action performed by the agent "A." 

The following assertions about the episode seem to me 
plainly true: 

1 What happened was made to happen by P. 

2 What he made happen was a motion of O (i.e., M). 

3 P made this happen by doing something (moved his 
hand to O, clasped it, and brought it back to him). 

4 In doing A, P was acting freely (was not in any way 
being forced or constrained to do A). 

Making Something Happen / 37 

5 A occurred throughout the time that M was occur- 

6 M (the motion of O) would not have occurred unless 
A had occurred. 

7 When A occurred, M had to occur. 

If we used the accepted terminology of discussions of cau- 
sation, we could roughly summarize the foregoing seven 
points by saying that the cause was a free act of a person, the 
effect was a motion of an inanimate object, the cause and 
effect were cotemporal (operative through the same time 
interval), and the effect was a necessary consequence. (We 
might add that the cause and effect were spatially contiguous, 
in a way too obvious to detail.) 

I shall now comment on some of these points. 

The agent acted freely. The contrast to be made here is 
with forced or constrained action; and, again, with action as 
an intermediary. If P had been compelled by physical coer- 
cion or by threats, we should confidently say he had not acted 
freely; there might be more hesitation about saying the same 
if he had acted because asked to do so, or if he had expected 
to receive some reward, or had some other ulterior motive. 
But neither coercion nor inducement was present in our para- 
digm case: P took the glass because he "just wanted to." If 
he had any motive at all, it may have been that he was thirsty, 
but he might equally well have had no antecedent and sepa- 
rable thirst. There would be no harm in saying the act was un- 
motivated — which is not to say it was irrational or unintel- 
ligible. On the other hand, the presence in other cases of a 
distinct and separable motive prior to the act would not dis- 
qualify an episode as a clear case of making something hap- 
pen. Neither presence nor absence of a separable motive func- 
tions as a clear-cut criterion. 

It may provoke surprise and an accusation of anthropomor- 
phism that the presence of a person is insisted on as a fea- 
ture of the paradigm. But the insistence is necessary. A candid 
examination of causal language will show that our prototypes 
involve persons. Certainly the word "make" strongly suggests 
a maker; and we find it not at all unnatural to substitute 
"make" for "cause." If this be anthropomorphism, we must 
make the best of it. 

To return to our illustration. Not only is it true that the 
agent acted freely: we are entitled, I think, to add that the 
very same situation is a clear case and a paradigm for acting 

38 / Determinism and Freedom 

freely. This means, as I previously explained, that it would 
be logically absurd to demand an investigation as to whether 
the agent acted freely; it also means that there could be no 
doubt that he had acted freely, nor any further reason to show 
that he had so acted. 

Now, if this is so, it follows that so far from there being a 
radical conflict between the notion of causation and freedom, 
as many philosophers have insisted, the two notions, or their 
informal progenitors, are logically inseparable. Our para- 
digmatic conception of causing something to happen is a con- 
ception of somebody freely making something happen. So 
anything having a tendency to show that the agent was not act- 
ing freely, but responding to contraint, duress, or ulterior in- 
ducement, would immediately have a tendency to show that he 
was not the cause but merely an instrument or an intermediary 
between the true cause and its effects. 

It also follows that no scientific elaboration of the anteced- 
ents of the paradigmatic episodes could destroy their char- 
acter as paradigms of acting freely, and so causing something 
to happen. No physiological or psychoanalytical explanation 
of the unconscious cause, if any, of P's moving O can have the 
least tendency to discredit our calling his act a case of freely 
making something happen. Of course the case would be 
altered if such scientific elaboration led us to view his act as 
pathological, but this outcome was excluded by our descrip- 
tion of the paradigm. 

The effective action lasted throughout the motion it pro- 
duced. It has been a truism for writers on causation that the 
cause must precede the effect. And certainly there would be 
a logical absurdity in supposing that the cause might succeed 
its effect. But our paradigm has cause and effect occurring 
together. It might be objected that the initiating action, A, 
began before the motion, M, it produced. But it would be 
easy to define the action as lasting for exactly the same period 
of time as the motion generated; we must therefore allow that 
sometimes cause and effect can be simultaneous or cotem- 
poral. TTiis will not render the causal relation symmetrical, as 
might be feared; the desired asymmetry is here ensured by 
the fact that the cause is a free action while the effect is not 
an action at all but the motion of an inanimate body. And 
when one person acts on another, so that one action is con- 
tiguous and cotemporal with another action, we can still im- 
mediately identify the cause as that action of the two that was 
free. If John pushes James, John acs freely, but James doesn't; 

Making Something Happen / 39 

and conversely, if James was moving of his own free will, 
John didn't push him. 

Now cotemporality of cause and effect is not a mere peculi- 
arity of "prescientific" thinking; it is a commonplace of causal 
description at scientific levels, as philosophers have occasion- 
ally noticed. The moon's gravitational pull lasts as long as the 
tide it produces; difference of temperature registers through- 
out the period that thermometric expansion occurs; a catalyst 
continues to act during the chemical reaction it is influencing; 
and so on, for any number of similar cases. There is some 
reason to regard the principle of strict priority of the cause as 
a metaphysical prejudice. And, like other metaphysical preju- 
dices, it can be opposed by equally powerful metaphysical 
prejudices of opposite tendency. 

The induced motion would not have occurred but for the 
action that produced it. As it stands, this formula is incorrect. 
It is untrue to say the glass would not have moved as it did 
unless P had made it do so, for if P had not moved it some 
other person might have done so. What we mean, of course, is 
that the glass would not have moved by itself: that is, if P had 
not performed action A, or some other action resulting in O's 
moving, the glass would have remained stationary. In short, 
had A not occurred, the glass would not have moved, though 
all other features of the setting remained unchanged. One 
might perhaps say that A is conditionally necessary for the 
occurrence of M. Or again: the occurrence of A included 
some of the necessary conditions for M to occur. 

In speaking of this feature of the paradigm I have used a 
"counterf actual." I said that, in the presence of certain con- 
textual factors, M would not have occurred but for A 's occur- 
rence. Alternatively: if A had not occurred (other things re- 
maining unchanged), M would not have occurred. Now such 
a statement is a so-called "counterfactual." Some contempo- 
rary philosophers have found this notion troublesome — pos- 
sibly because they have failed to explain satisfactorily how a 
counterfactual conditional could be verified. Yet the notion 
"would not have happened unless" is as primitive and un- 
problematic as the notion "making something happen." Both 
are applicable in the same circumstances, long before any 
question o!" scientific terminology arises. There are accordingly 
relatively direct and unsophisticated ways of establishing such 
a claim as: The glass would not have moved unless somebody 
had moved i:. In making such an assertion we do, in fact, 
simply rely on our commonplace knowledge that when no- 

40 / Determinism and Freedom 

body is "doing anything" the glass stays put, and that when 
somebody does "do something" of a certain sort the glass 
moves. It would, however, be a mistake to say that the state- 
ment "The glass would not have moved by itself" had the 
same meaning as "Glasses do not move when left alone"; for 
the two statements are made in different contexts and have 
different uses, even though the procedure of verifying them 
may sometimes be identical. 

When pushed, the glass had to move. Certainly it is natural 
to say this, and there must be some sense in which it is true. 
No doubt m3^hology plays a part: there is a discernible in- 
clination to think of the moving object as animate — a mani- 
kin, helpless in our grasp, "having no choice" but to move. But 
good sense remains when mythology has been discarded. We 
need only remind ourselves of the circumstances in which we 
say that an object acted on by an external force does not have 
to move. We say so when the given force is insufficient to pro- 
duce the desired motion. If I push my cat gently, Hodge may 
or may not move, though if he does I shall say he did because 
I pushed him; but if I push hard enough, Hodge has to move. 
Again, a penny tossed into the air has to come down again, 
but it does not have to come down tails. Here and elsewhere, 
the relevant contrast is between what sometimes happens and 
what invariably happens. To generalize: we say that M had 
to happen when A happened, only if M would always ensue, 
given an unchanged setting and the same concomitant. Using 
a phrase parallel to one introduced earlier, we might call A 
conditionally sufficient for M. Alternatively, we might say that 
A is a part of a certain sufficient condition for the occurrence 
of M. 

In this cursory examination of some features of a paradigm 
of making something happen, I have had little occasion to 
refer to any "constant conjunction" between producing action 
and induced motion. The omission has been deliberate. The 
assertion "P made M happen by doing A" does n^t mean the 
same as "If P were to repeat actions sufficiently like A, then, 
other things being equal, motions sufficiently like M would in- 
variably ensue." If the analysis were correct, the original 
causal statement would include as part of its meaning ^ 
generalization whose verification would need repeated ob- 
servation and an induction upon an indefinite number of 
situations resembling the original situation. The orginal state- 
ment ("P made something happen, etc.") is so far from being 
verifiable by inspection that a lengthy inquiry would be needed 


Making Something Happen / 41 

to establish its truth. (It is as if we had to perform a long 
inductive inquiry into the behavior of meter rods before we 
could use a given meter rod to measure a given object.) But 
I think the truth of the matter is much simpler: in order to be 
sure that P made O move, we need only look. The verifying 
situation is right before our eyes. To establish conclusively 
that P did make O move, we need only be sure that P did do 
such-and-such, and that O was moving thus-and-thus mean- 

I do not say we should be right in maintaining that A made 
M happen whenever an action and a cotemporal motion are 
contiguous. In using the language of "making something hap- 
pen" we take for granted that the episode in view has a special 
and appropriate character. Should we be challenged to specify 
these conditions in full detail, we should eventually have to 
talk about constant conjunctions; and in deciding in unusual, 
unfamiliar, or abnormal settings whether the use of causal 
language is appropriate, prolonged inductive investigations 
might be needed. But such investigation would establish the 
presuppositions for the proper use of causal language, not the 
meaning of the assertions made by means of such language. 

Consider the following analogy: If I say, "Jones just made 
the move 'pawn to king four,' " a full and sufficient verifica- 
tion of my assertion is that Jones shifted a characteristically 
shaped piece of wood from a certain place on a chessboard 
to another place. Yet this is only part of the story. I would 
not say that Jones had made the move if he knew nothing of 
the game and was merely moving the piece at random; nor 
would I say so if he knew how to play chess but was amusing 
himself by replaying some master's game — or was composing 
a chess problem. In using the language of chess I take for 
granted the institution of chess-playing and a host of related 
facts. Before I can teach anybody how to use the language of 
chess, I must acquaint him with this background of presup- 
positions. But once the background has been established, I do 
not refer to it each time I announce somebody's move. 

There is a general background also for talking about "mak- 
ing things happen." The subject could not be dealt with 
properly by anybody ignorant of a host of familiar facts 
about motions of human bodies, obstructions and resistances 
offered by other bodies, the dependable behavior of relatively 
permanent solid objects, and so on. But when we say, "Jones 
moved the glass," we do not refer to these uniformities or to 
the remainder of the background of presuppositions. When we 

42 / Determinism and Freedom 

say, "Jones moved the glass," we draw a line around an epi- 
sode whose relevant features are directly observable. An in- 
formal causal statement is a straightforward report. Stripped 
of its background of presupposition, it would have the simple 
form, "While P did this, that happened." 

There is a sense, therefore, in which "P made M happen by 
doing A" can be said to mean the same as "While P did A, M 
happened" — the sense in which both statements would be veri- 
fied by the same state of affairs. But there is also an important 
sense in which the two are strikingly different — because they 
imply different presuppositions and are connected with di- 
verse linguistic practices. 

A full account of the linguistic practices connected with the 
vocabulary of "making something happen" would be lengthy 
and complicated. One obvious connection is with the language 
of imperatives. When we order somebody to do something, we 
envisage his making something happen. If our language con- 
tained no provision for isolating causal episodes, we could 
issue no orders, give no commands. And the same could be 
said for recipes, plans of operation, and other features of 
linguistic transaction. All that part of our life concerned with 
getting things done, or with anticipating and controlling the 
consequences of our actions, uses the language of "making 
things happen" and is inconceivable without it. 

Another connection is with moral language. To say that 
somebody made M happen is to hold him responsible for it; it 
can be a prelude to the assignment of praise or blame, punish- 
ment or reward. And the further connections with ethical 
practices are equally obvious. To state the point negatively: a 
language containing no provision for linking persons with 
events for whose occurrence they were held responsible would 
be one in which moral judgments as we now know them 
would be impossible. 


So far I have been considering primitive cases of making 
something happen. But we also talk about "making something 
happen" in an enormous variety of derivative situations. Some 
of the ways in which these related uses are connected with the 
paradigm are fairly obvious. I have been confining myself to 
cases where some person causes a motion. But it is natural to 
extend the language to cases where the agent produces a ces- 
sation of motion, i.e., where the motion would not have ceased 

Making Something Happen / 43 

but for the person's intervention. Or, again, it is equally 
natural to talk of "making something happen" when what is 
produced is a qualitative change. And so we pass, by easy 
transitions, from the material realm to that of the affections 
and sentiments. We talk of making somebody laugh, of mak- 
ing somebody reconsider, or making somebody happy — with- 
out always realizing how far we have strayed from the 

Criteria for the use of causal language can also shift in 
other ways. For instance, we commonly speak of intermedi- 
aries as causes. If I make a billiard ball move in such a way 
as to set another in motion, I can think of the impinging bil- 
liard ball as the causal agent. Here we discard the criterion of 
the human agent, allowing the motion of an inanimate object 
to count as that which "makes something happen." It is easiest 
to make this type of transition when the new field of applica- 
tion most plainly resembles the original paradigm. We freely 
attribute causal efficiency when some motion can be made to 
look like the motion of a human body. So we find no difficulty 
in conceiving of "forces" that push or pull, bend, or squeeze, 
but experience extreme discomfort in trying to imagine "ac- 
tion at a distance." The idea of a body "impressing" an ex- 
ternal force is altogether natural, but we cannot understand 
how one body can "attract" another without being joined to it 
by an unbroken chain of physical intermediaries. 

Anybody with a logician's desire for clear-cut distinctions 
may well be exasperated by the lack of systematic principle 
in these patterns of analogical and metaphorical extensions 
of causal language. A search for a common denominator in 
this kaleidoscope of applications leads at best to "universal 
conjunction" or the even vaguer notion of "predictability." But 
such abstract and simplified formulas fail to do justice to the 
actual uses of "cause" and its cognates. It would be more to 
the point to ask what role the language of causation plays — to 
inquire into the purposes served by passing from the home- 
spun language of "making things happen" to the more abstract 
language of causation. 

A partial answer might be that the language of causation 
seems most fitting when we are concerned with the effective 
production, prevention, or modification of events. Roughly 
speaking, an event X is most plainly eligible as a possible 
cause of another event Y, if we can manipulate X in such a 
way as to modify Y. A cause is something that we can or 
might be able to control. But we invoke causes also when we 

44 / Determinisni and Freedom 

are interested in explaining something rather than controlling 
it. And as our accepted patterns of explanation become more 
complex, our notion of a cause becomes correspondingly more 
elusive, until it threatens to vanish altogether into the abstract 
conception of a law, a parameter, a boundary condition, or 
some combination of all of these. As scientific modes of in- 
vestigation develop, the language of cause tends to its own 

But this is not a special quirk or weakness of the language 
of causation. It happens regularly and characteristically in the 
transition from ordinary language to scientific terminology. 
Dominating my discussion throughout has been the notion 
that the vocabulary of "cause" and its informal progenitors is 
indigenous to ordinary language — the language of practical 
affairs and common-sense observation or understanding. The 
vocabulary of causation can be adapted to a scientific context, 
jbut the sophistication it suffers proves ultimately fatal. Scien- 
jtific insight is the death of causal conceptions. But this does 
not mean there is anything amiss with the language of causa- 
tion when employed in its proper settings. To say the opposite 
would be as implausible as to hold that the supersession of 
words like "hot" and "cold" in favor of the scientific termi- 
nology of thermometry shows that there is something wrong, 
or in need of correction, in the prescientific uses of thermal 


I have been arguing that "cause" is an essentially schematic 
word, tied to certain more or less stable criteria of application, 
but permitting wide variation of specific determination accord- 
ing to context and the purposes of investigation. Now, if this 
is so, any attempt to state a "universal law of causation" must 
prove futile. To anybody who insists that "nothing happens 
without a suflBcient cause" we are entitled to retort with the 
question, "What do you mean by 'cause'?" It is safe to predict 
that the only answer forthcoming will contain such schematic 
words as "event," "law," and "prediction." These, too, are 
words capable of indefinite further determination according 
to circumstances — and they are none the worse for that. But 
universal statements containing schematic words have no 
place in rational argument. The fatal defect of determinism is 
its protean capacity to elude refutation — by the same token, 
its informative content is negligible. Whatever virtues it may 
have in encouraging scientists to search for comprehensive 

Making Something Happen / 45 

laws and theories, there can be no rational dispute about its 
truth value. Many of the traditional problems of causation 
disappear when we become sufficiently clear about what we 
mean by "cause" and remind ourselves once more of what a 
peculiar, unsystematic, and erratic notion it is. 

Chapter 3 

Petermiriism and Noveify 

William Barrett, New York University 

Most of what I shall have to say in this comment will be 
directed at Professor Blanshard's paper. This is not to be taken 
as a judgment on the relative merits of the two foregoing 
papers. Professor Black has suggested a very interesting para- 
digm by which to explore the question of determinism, and it 
would be fruitful to examine the question wholly within the 
framework he sets. But since in most matters I am, I think, in 
agreement with him, and since the function of the commen- 
tator seems to be not so much to applaud in agreement as to 
join battle in debate, I shall be concerned principally with 
Professor Blanshard's contribution. 

Professor Blanshard has presented an admirably clear, can- 
did, and persuasive paper in defense of the determinist posi- 
tion. On a subject like this, which has been so long discussed 
that nothing new is likely to be said, it is good to get a paper 
that performs a real act of simplification, that clears the 
ground of clutter, and so suggests the possibility of taking up 
the old beat-up problem with some degree of freshness. 

Let us begin on the prephilosophical level of everyday life. 
Determinism is a position repugnant to most people. Why is 
this? The reasons. Professor Blanshard says, are our stub- 
born feeling of freedom and the belief that "determinism 
would make nonsense of moral responsibility." Here he omits, 
I think, one of the main motives in the rebellion against de- 
terminism, not only on the part of ordinary people but also 
of those modern philosophers who have been most vigorously 
opposed to the determinist position: namely, the desire for 
freshness, novelty, genuine creation — in short, an open rather 
than a closed universe. Such is the main impulse in the criti- 
cism of determinism by philosophers hke Peirce, James, 
Bergson, Whitehead, and Dewey. 

It is worth while in this connection to recall the story by 
the Italian poet Leopardi about the Almanac Vendor. The 
vendor appears under a window hawking his wares, crying 


Determinism and Novelty / 47 

out that he has good predictions to sell for the year. A man 
leans out of the window and engages him in conversation: 
How long has the vendor been selling almanacs and making 
this same cry? "Twenty years, Excellency." And if he had the 
chance of living over any of those years? "No, Excellency, 
certainly not; not for all the money in the world." Here the 
man who sells predictions would not care, as a human being, 
to have those predictions true in detail. The point of the story 
is that even a good year — had we to live it over again with 
every detail fixed beforehand — would stifle us with boredom: 
our food would taste dull to our palate, our most spontaneous 
talk sound as uninspired as the playback of a tape-recorded 
conversation, and our words of love would sound hollow be- 
cause we should know beforehand the precise moment of 
fatigue when they would expire. 

For my own part, I find the traditional concepts of free 
will extremely tenuous and rarefied in the face of my experi- 
ence of people and the concrete situations of life, and from 
that point of view I could swallow determinism without too 
much trouble. Indeed, on the prephilosophical level my con- 
viction tends rather toward the old primitive notion of fate, 
Moira, of Homer and the tragic poets; but Homeric Moira is 
a very different thing from Newtonian or neo-Newtonian de- 
terminism, and my recoil from the latter is due to its dreary 
prospect of a stale and routine world from which surprise and 
genuine novelty may ultimately be banished. 

But to come now to the philosophical level. Here, too, de- 
terminism seems to me to make very good sense, for it isolates 
the central issue: namely, the question of the predictability 
of phenomena, and moreover predictability in detail. For 
determinism predictability in general is not enough: it has to 
assert (and prove, if it can) predictability down to the last 
detail — ^lock, stock, and barrel, and even down to the last , 
scratch on the barrel. Anything less than this, and the thesis \ 
I of determinism must cnmible. Determinism cannot afford 
to leave any loose ends lying around. Small and great are 
inextricably linked in the happenings of nature and history; 
and unpredictable detail might trigger an enormous explosion, 
and empires and battles do sometimes hang on a straw. 

Professor Blanshard presents a very much simplified 
schema for examining the determinist assertion: "Given A, B 
must occur." Such simplification allows us to cut to the core 
of the matter. Professor Blanshard generously waives the 
[question of what "must" means here, and proposes that we 

48 / Determinism and Freedom 

can go on with the discussion without settling it. I am sorry 
I cannot quite accept his generosity. So far as I can see, the 
empirical evidence for determinism lies in the fact that some 
phenomena can be predicted, and the "must" in Professor 
Blanshard's schema therefore has to be understood in con- 
nection with predictability. Determinism is surely not a priori; 
not only is its denial conceivable by us, but it has actually 
been proposed as sober theory by scientists. Such scientific 
proposals may, in the end, turn out to be unwarranted by the 
facts, but the mere fact that they are seriously made and 
utilized for purposes of explanation should suffice to show 
that determinism itself is not founded on any a priori neces- 
sity. My discussion will therefore present an altogether differ- 
1 ent intellectual perspective from Professor Blanshard's, for it 
j will turn centrally on the notion of predictability. 

With the problem thus shifted, its nature changes consid- 
erably. We should be engaged in a painstaking examination 
of those regions of experience where we have established pre- 
dictability, of the regions where we have not, and of the likeli- 
hood of our extending predictability to these latter regions. A 
good deal of very antiquated dialectic would promptly fall by 
the wayside. This may be laying very rough hands on deter- 
minism, but it has been dealing so long in the I.O.U.'s and 
promissory notes of hypotheticals — // all conditions are given 
(when they so obviously can't be); // we knew everything 
(when we so obviously never shall), etc., etc. — that at long 
last we may be pardoned for demanding cash or cutting off 
trade. Recasting the problem thus, we must also attempt to 
make the deterministic schema more specific by applying it to 
some definite models (in the mathematical sense of this last 
term). When Professor Blanshard lays down as the schema of 
determinism "Given A, B must occur" I am unclear about his 
meaning, not only because of the ambiguity of "must" but 
because I am imsure of the range of values to which A and B 
must apply. Suppose we substitute for A and B the following: 
Given the nineteenth century, the twentieth century must oc- 
cur — that is, exactly in the form it does, down to the last 
detail; or: Given the first millennium of the Christian period, 
the second must follow exactly as it did. Such theses are, to 
my mind, too staggeringly vast to prove or disprove. Clearly 
some contraction of the range of variables is called for. 

Accordingly, I should like to make some speculations about 
the question of predictability in connection with four specific 
fields: (1) mathematics; (2) physics; (3) intellectual and 

Detenninism and Novelty / 49 

artistic creation; (4) history, in the sense of individual and 
relatively circumscribable events in time. Obviously within the 
scope of these brief remarks I can hope only to indicate, at 
most, certain issues that have a different weight for me and 
for Professor Blanshard, or at least lead my mind in a differ- 
ent direction from his. 

1, Mathematics. Godel, as is well known, has established 
the incompleteness of mathematics. What this means, in more 
human and concrete terms, is that mathematicians, as long as 
they remain creative, will always be exposed to the possibility 
of unpredictable surprises. Of Godel's result itself, a mathe- 
matician of my acquaintance remarked: "Mathematicians 
didn't foresee any result like that. In fact, if you had asked 
them beforehand, they would have said that just the opposite 
would turn out to be the case." Of course, there is the distinc- 
tion between the psychological and the logical, and the sur- 
prises, after we have understood them, turn out to be logically 
inevitable. To be sure, to be sure; but it may be questioned 
whether from a human and practical point of view this will 
make much difference, since mathematicians, as a conse- 
quence of Godel's discovery, will have to face 2,500 years 
from now a possibility of shock and surprise like that experi- 
enced by the Pythagorean brotherhood at the discovery of 
irrationals — which, according to one tradition, cost the dis- 
coverer his life at the hands of the outraged brotherhood. 

The point becomes stronger if we consider Godel's result a 
little more specifically. A Godel formula is a perfectly con- 
structible formula in elementary arithmetic; syntactically in- 
terpreted, this formula says that it itself is not provable. But 
it is not impossible — and this, thanks to Godel himself — that 
a worker in number theory, operating with minimal formali- 
zation and maximal use of the devices of analysis, as is usually 
done, and not at all following the syntactical model, might 
come up with a demonstration, a long chain of formulas, at 
the end of which would be a Godel formula. Not only is it 
unpredictable that this will not occur; it is unpredictable how, 
when, and where it will occur, if it does — for if all this were 
predictable, we should have produced the proof before it was 
produced. What would have happened here would be merely 
that a contradiction would have turned up in classical mathe- 
matics. Such a contradiction, of course, would not be catas- 
trophic; mathematics, like life itself, thrives on contradiction 
and is fructified thereby; mathematicians would simply get 
busy plugging the leak so that the vessel could continue its 

50 / Determinism and Freedom 

voyage — a voyage that, as a result of Godel's work, now 
shows itself to be over an ocean that is shoreless. 

The determinist tends to think that the advance of a science 
always means an advance in predictability. Sometimes, how- 
ever, an advance brings about a situation of disorder rather 
than order. Mathematics after Godel is, so to speak, in a state 
of greater disorder than before him. We have to think of it 
less as a tightly organized monarchy dependent on some cen- 
tral court and more as a federation of states, sometimes with 
rather fluid and overlapping borders — borders at which con- 
flict and contradiction may occur. 

In bringing up mathematics for consideration I am of 
course deliberately raiding the classical citadel of necessity. 
After centuries of Platonism, we seem compelled at last — and 
by the results of the mathematicians themselves — to construe 
mathematics as a human enterprise, one that has, therefore, a 
thoroughly human future with the unpredictable possibilities 
that such a future involves. 

2. Physics. Here Professor Blanshard has delightfully 
cleared the air by suggesting that it is all a question of which 
physicist one reads. I shall not debate with him the relative 
consensus among physicists, especially of the younger gener- 
ation, though I think it favors my side; rather, I should like 
to accept his point and push it one step further. The reports 
that come to the layman these days from the physical labora- 
tories are so rich and teasing to the imagination — with their 
talk of left-handed and right-handed neutrons, antimatter, 
and the rest — that perhaps we had better let physics alone for 
the present and not try to draw any philosophical conclusions 
from it. The change might be welcome to the physicists them- 
selves: physics will be just physics and not something else. 
Certainly it has ruled the roost long enough on this philo- 
sophic question of determinism, so that it may now be time 
for a change. Physics now seems in such a state of upheaval 
that the whole science provides a good example of unpre- 
dictability; the new theoretical synthesis of all recent findings, 
if and when it comes, is unpredictable now. But these are 
matters for the physicists at tomorrow's session, when they 
will perhaps tell us something very different. 

But Professor Blanshard does not seem to me to assess 
quite fairly the damage done to his position by the indeter- 
ministic leanings of modern physics, for these do at least 
make questionable what has hitherto been the main prop of 
determinism. The physical model (as in the case of Laplace's 

Determinism and Novelty / 51 

demon) has hitherto been the chief model of all determin- 
istic thinking. Despite Heisenberg, Professor Blanshard tells 
us, nature in itself may be deterministic. To which we can 
only answer: then again, it may not be. "May be" sounds 
very curious issuing from the lips of a determinist; and when 
he is forced to the minimal assertion that determinism, after 
all, may be true, he is already traflScking in contingency. Be- 
hind the screen of appearances God may be in his heaven and 
every detail in nature in its place in accordance with unalter- 
able law; but if we, by the natural laws themselves, are to live 
always on the hither side of the screen, we shall have to leave 
God's prospect to God and not hanker for something beyond 
our own human limitations. Professor Blanshard will find my 
view here, as throughout, incurably anthropocentric — to 
which charge I plead guilty — but I see no other center when 
we are talking about the possibilities of human knowledge. 

3. Artistic and intellectual creation. Here wc pass from 
hypothetical considerations of unpredictibilities that lie at 
the fringes of knowledge to actual cases of unpredictability. 

There is the famous case of Poincar^'s perceiving the solu- 
tion of a mathematical problem that had agitated him for 
months at the moment he set foot on the bus at Coutances. 
The mathematician himself could not have foreseen this event: 
he would already have had to possess the solution to this 
problem, together with the psychological knowledge when, 
where, and how this solution would come to him — an obvious 
contradiction. But if Poincare could not have foreknown the 
event, neither could anyone else; for no one else had carried 
that problem as far as he. We cannot imagine a super- 
psychologist or superpsychoanalyst, armed with an impossibly 
complete knowledge of Poincar6's unconscious, predicting 
this event, for this psychologist, too, would already have to 
know the solution to the mathematical problem. Of course, 
there remains the possibility of foreknowledge by the Divine 
Mind, or by his secular surrogate, the demon of Laplace, but 
I think we have to renounce such figments once and for all 
and recognize that if we are talking about prediction we have I 
to have in mind some possible human being, representative r 
of some body of human knowledge, who is going to make the 
prediction. To be sure, one must distinguish between unpre- 
dictable in fact and unpredictable in principle; but predictions 
do not float in the air by themselves; they are made by hu- 
man beings, and if there is no conceivable human being who 
can make the prediction, then we have to say (as in the pres- 

52 / Determinism and Freedom 

ent case) that we are dealing with something unpredictable in 

Even if we consider the fictitious picture of the mind of 
the creative genius dismembered into all its mental atoms (if 
there be such), does the possibility of prediction present it- 
self? The best empirical study on this subject that I know 
happens to be the work of a literary scholar: it is The Road 
to Xanadu, by J. L. Lowes, a dissection of Coleridge's "An- 
cient Mariner" and, principally, "Kubla Khan." The latter 
poem, "Kubla Khan," is a rare thing in the history of litera- 
ture, since it comes closer than any other work to being a 
purely spontaneous and unconscious creation. Coleridge tells 
us that he woke from a nap with the whole poem in his mind 
and immediately began to write it down just as it had come 
to him in his sleep; there came a knock at the door, announc- 
ing that mysterious and forever unknown visitor, a neighbor 
from Porlock; Coleridge talked with him for some minutes, 
then returned to his desk to finish transcribing the dream; but 
it had completely vanished, and we are left with the teasing 
fragment of "Kubla Khan" as it is — in its own way, however, 
perfectly complete as a poem. Around 1900 some early note- 
books of Coleridge's turned up on the literary market and 
were edited by German scholars. Armed with a hindsight 
knowledge of the two poems, Lowes read through all the 
books that had fed Coleridge's imagination. 

Now, Lowes did find that a great number of Coleridge's 
images and even some of his phrases could be traced back to 
his earlier reading, particularly of travel books. Suppose, for 
argument's sake, that we could trace every image and phrase 
back to such antecedent reading. There would still remain 
the selection, fusion, and transformation of these in the poem. 
The poem is as unmistakably by Coleridge as any of his rela- 
tively more conscious creations; only he could have written it. 
Our hypothetical superpsychoanalyst could not have predicted 
the dream without writing the poem; but this, of course, no 
one could do but Coleridge. Hindsight does not remove the 
fact of unpredictability; if it succeeds in tracing certain ele- 
ments back to some antecedent source, it nonetheless leaves 
us with the realization that it would have been impossible to 
)^ foresee how, when, where, and why these elements would 

I come together. In short, the enumeration of antecedents can 
at best give us only the necessary but never the sufficient con- 
ditions of a creative act. The introduction of the unconscious 
as an explanation does not help the determinist at all. Far 

Determinism and Novelty / 53 

from it: for the unconscious, when it is truly creative, is far 
more unpredictable than the conscious mind. 

Indeed, artists repeatedly testify that when they sit down 
to their job they themselves cannot predict the work that will 
be produced. The psychological examples usually cited by 
determinists reflect the more monotonous and routine aspects 
of our behavior, as if to reinforce their general picture of the 
world as a vast and dreamy machine. Professor Blanshard is 
not of this kidney; he wisely refers to a "causality of a higher 
level in the psychical realm." But something very odd happens 
to the word "necessity" when he refers to "aesthetic necessity" 
as a vis a tergo producing the unpredictable work, and I can- 
not see that the term here has any resemblance to the meaning 
it has in physics or in general deterministic schema he ad- 
vanced earlier. 

4. History. If in the previous sections I have merely given 
indications of points, here — because of limitations of space — 
I shall be able to give only indications of indications. 

So far as I can see, recent historians (except the Marxists) 
have become much more cautious, far more inclined to qual- 
ify, in asserting determinism on any large scale in their works. 
Determinism in history seems largely the historicism of the 
nineteenth century; it is ideological rather than scientific, and 
its technique is to impose, at the dictates of its ideology, large 
simplifying patterns in place of the actual chain of events. 
Anyone who wants a good example of this method might 
compare Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution, a work 
composed thoroughly in accord with the nineteenth century 
ideology of Marxism, with the treatment of the Russian 
Revolution in Sidney Hook's The Hero in History. If you read 
Trotsky's work carefully, you will notice that it abounds in 
metaphors drawn from physics — the pressure and explosion 
of gases, the fusion of metals, etc. — all intended to convey a 
feeling of inevitable historic processes carried to their fore- 
ordained conclusion. Actually, continual apologizing is en- 
gaged in behind the scenes, because none of the cafe-intellec- 
tual Marxists of 1914 predicted that the Revolution would 
break out in Russia, and indeed their predictions pointed quite 
to the contrary. If we aproach the facts in a more critical and 
scientific spirit, without an ideological parti pris, then I think 
we must conclude with Hook that the Revolution could not 
have taken place without the individual figure of Lenin. And, 
of course, tne introduction of human personality multiplies 

54 / Determinism and Freedom 

the factors of chance beyond the determinist's ability to press 
them into any one of his ready-made schemes. 

But the issues of history can perhaps be brought into 
sharpest relief with a consideration of our position now, in 
mid-twentieth century, as we face the future. This historical 
future is thoroughly problematic and uncertain. Will Russia 
or the United States be victorious? Or perhaps a third force? 
Will Conmiunism conquer in the twentieth century? When 
will the next war break out? When will the first bomb be 
dropped? With such questions as these we face a future as 
unknown to us as the events of the next millennium were to 
an intelligent Greek of Thucydides' time, who must have felt 
— such, at least, is our impression from reading what has been 
called the first of modern histories — that the world would 
change, that it would become very different from what it was 
now, though in ways that could not be foreseen. Two thous- 
and four hundred years have not made the least impression on 
unpredictability here. 

Such questions about the future bring us back to the pre- 
phUosophical level from which this comment took off, the 
level at which, as individuals, we all live and die. On this level 
we encounter a vast, shaggy, amorphous mass of unpredicta- 
bility on which our knowledge has made very little impres- 
sion. Billions of dollars trade hands annually in games of 
chance; people are anxious about their future, and fortune- 
tellers ply a prosperous trade (there are currently eleven 
astrologers in the Classified Telephone Directory — a curious 
juxtaposition of ancient and modern); and where primitive 
peoples scanned the skies for signs and portents, we do so for 
unidentified aircraft, missiles, or flying saucers. Modern civili- 
zation has stabilized social life and enormously increased 
predictability in certain areas, but in another sense it has also 
enormously increased the total quantity of contingency and 
distributed it to other focal points in the body social. 

Of course this final litany of contingency is not intoned as 
proof — only as a reminder to the determinist that the spheres 
in which determinism has so far been established are re- 
stricted. When Professor Blanshard concludes by saying that 
he has dealt with the three commonest objections to deter- 
minism, he seems to have forgotten the simplest, most direct, 
! and, to my mind, most overriding objection: that as a total 
\ thesis determinism simply remains to be proved. 


PART §§ 

Psfermlnism In Modern SeiarBc® 

Chapter 1 

Deferminism in Modern Selene© 

Percy W. Bridgman, Harvard University 

Anyone who is inclined to define science as the consensus of 
competent scientists may well pause for second consideration 
when he contemplates the present state of opinion in physics 
with regard to the question of determinism as it is presented 
by quantum mechanics. Seldom in the history of physics (and i 
for the purposes of this exposition I shall take the "science" 
of my title to be pretty nearly equivalent to physics) has there 
been such a radical difference of fundamental outlook be- 
tween the acknowledged leaders. The so-called "official" or 
"orthodox" attitude is that of Niels Bohr and Heisenberg and 
Max Born. But it is well known that during their lifetimes 
Planck, who laid the foundations of the theory, and Einstein, 
who very early developed some of its most important physical 
consequences, were irreconcilably opposed to the official point/ 
of view. The intensity of Einstein's opposition amounted al- 
most to intransigence. Among those living today, de Broglie, 
who first had the fundamental insights of wave mechanics, 
and whose first intuitive attitude was akin to the more tradi- 
tional classical attitudes of Planck and Einstein, was blud- 
geoned into twenty-five years of unwilling acceptance of the 
official doctrines by Bohr's apparently irrefutable logic, but 
has recently kicked over the traces again with his glimpse of 
a possible way of refuting Bohr's argument. And it is well 
known that Schrodinger, who gave wave mechanics its mathe- 
matical form, has from the beginning been more or less of an 
enfant terrible, refusing to accept such orthodox concepts as 
quantum jumps. There is a host of other names not so closely 
connected with the historical beginnings of the subject. In 
this country Henry Margenau at Yale is well known to have 
unorthodox points of view. David Bohm, also unorthodox, 
has had a considerable following recently. In 1953 he wrote 
a widely used book in which certain departures from the 
orthodox view were suggested, and these have been further 
developed and accentuated in recent writings. "Strife About 
Complementarity," '^ a lively article by Mario Bunge, paints 

^Brlt. low. Phil. Sci.. May 1955. 


58 / Determinism and Freedom 

a vivid picture of the present conflict of interests, viewpoints, 
and temperaments. 

The point at issue in all the discussions is itself somewhat 
fuzzy. Such terms as "determinism," "causality," "natural 
law," "prediction" turn up almost inevitably. These terms 
are all connected in some way with the point or points at 
issue, in spite of the fact that they are not fully equivalent 
and that differences among them can be clearly specified if 
one wants to make one's analysis meticulous enough. I shall 
not find it necessary for the purposes of this exposition to 
attempt to sharpen distinctions to the point of emphasizing 
all recognizable differences among terms, but shall be able to 
use them in a more or less intuitive common-sense fashion. 
In addition to the four crudely synonymous terms mentioned 
above, some other terms, without which the discussion never 
gets very far, turn up: for example, "reality," "subjective," 
"objective." It is more difficult to find the meaning of these 
terms than of the first four; one often has to try to reconstruct 
the meaning by observing the use of the term in context, 
which is unsatisfactory and may result in a multiplicity of 
meanings. One may safely comment, however, that when 
such terms begin to occur the discussion is heading away from 
the narrow limits of concern with the experimental findings 
of the laboratory toward something vaguer and more general, 
which, for want of a better description, we may characterize 
as "philosophical." In fact, it is difficult to keep the discus- 
sion from entering the field recognized as philosophy, and 
men like Bohr and Heisenberg and Born do not hesitate to 
use the word "philosophical" in connection with their own 

However marked the failure of consensus with regard to 
the philosophical aspects of physics, there is no such failure 
with regard to the experimental situation in the laboratory. 
Everyone is agreed that it is possible to set up in the labora- 
j tory experimental systems in which events occur that we are 
■^ at present completely unable to predict. This is another way 
of saying that we can establish no unique causal connection 
between the event and other events or situations, which is 
another way of saying that up to the present we have been 
able to formulate no law of nature according to which the 
given event follows from other things. This again may be 
described by saying that, as far as we can now see, the 
event is undetermined. Whether or not the existence of such 

Determinism in Modem Science / 59 

undetermined events is closely connected with what the 
philosopher understands by determinism and indeterminism, 
we do not need to examine. There are doubtless valid dis- 
tinctions to be made here, but for our purposes we need not 
elaborate them. 

The relevant experimental situations in which there is such 
consensus are usually situations in the "microscopic" world 
of electrons and individual quantum events. A typical exam- 
ple would be the interference pattern produced by a slender 
beam of light passing through a system of slits. The pattern 
ordinarily seen is a pattern of light and dark bands with 
smooth gradations from light to dark. But if the intensity of 
light is made very low, the smooth pattern breaks down into 
a pattern of individual spots, which mark the arrival of 
individual photons of light and the excitation of individual 
grains of the photographic emulsion. The place and time of 
occurrence of any individual spot in this pattern are at pres- 
ent absolutely unpredictable. It is not necessary, however, that 
the unpredictable event should be on the microscopic scale; it 
would be possible so to couple a disintegrating speck of some 
radioactive compound to an atomic bomb as to blow up a 
city at an absolutely unpredictable time. Such an unpredicta- 
ble situation on the scale of daily life, however, seems always 
to involve some reaching down into the "microscopic" and 
bringing it up to the scale of daily life. 

There is, then, no disagreement about the experimental 
situation; disagreement begins with our interpretation of the 
significance of the experimental facts, and in the program 
for the future action that we draw up in its light. There is 
in the first place the question of how best to talk about the 
experimental situation as we now have it. This involves in 
particular how best to devise a mathematics for describing 
the present experimental situation with its at present unre- 
solved fuzziness. Here again I think there is consensus that 
the present mathematical machinery of wave mechanics is 
competent to handle adequately all the phenomena at pres- 
ent experimentally accessible — involving the reactions of 
atoms, molecules, electrons, and photons — that it was con- 
structed to handle. From one point of view this is all the 
physicist is concerned with, and we might dismiss all the 
disagreement as being outside the realm of physics and there- 
fore of no proper concern to the physicists. But physicists are 
obviously concerned. Physics is finding itself forced into a 
position where it is increasingly concerned with problems out- 

60 / Determinism and Freedom 

side the realm of its traditional activity and verging toward 

The mathematical machinery, then, is generally accepted. 
Bohr and Schrodinger would make the same calculations to 
find, for example, how two hydrogen atoms combine to form 
a hydrogen molecule. Differences arise in interpreting the 
mathematics, which means perhaps that the question is how 
we shall best talk about what we do when we use the mathe- 
matics. It is to be anticipated that we shall have difficulties 
in finding how best to talk about what we do, for the world 
of newly discovered happenings is a strange and paradoxical 
world in which the customary patterns according to which 
ordinary events behave are no longer found. The first major 
step in interpretation was taken by Max Born, who pointed 
out that the psi function of Schrodinger's wave equation, an 
equation that had already been successfully used in handling 
atomic phenomena, could be described in terms of probabili- 
ties. Specifically, in a problem dealing, for example, with 
electrons, the square of the psi function at any place deter- 
mines the probability that an electron will be found at that 
place. The recognition of this possible interpretation of the 
psi function, which is fundamental to the "orthodox" attitude 
toward wave mechanics as formulated by Bohr and Heisen- 
berg, is everywhere regarded as remarkable intuitive insight 
on Born's part 

There was a great advantage in an interpretation in terms 
of probability because the mathematical machinery for han- 
dling probability had been developed by mathematicians for 
its own interest and had been previously applied by physicists 
to such problems as the kinetic theory of gases and the statis- 
tical interpretation of the second law of thermodynamics, 
which made understandable the universal degradation of en- 
ergy. At the same time it must be recognized that the funda- 
mental role ascribed to probability is one of the reasons why 
there is no consensus on the significance of wave mechanics. 
For in spite of the fact that there is agreement as to the use 
of statistical analysis in practical situations — all competent 
persons would agree on how to draw up a table for a life 
insurance company or how to bet in a complicated gambling 
game — there is no agreement as to what probability "really" 
is, and the matter is still controversial 

Let us now turn to a more detailed examination of the 
different points of view. First consider the orthodox interpre- 
tation of Bohr and Heisenberg, which is probably that ac- 

Determinism in Modem Science / 61 

cepted by the majority of physicists. In this interpretation the 
Heisenberg uncertainty relations and Bohr's principle of com- 
plementarity play a leading role. According to the Heisenberg 
principle there is a correlation between the fuzziness of a 
position measurement and the fuzziness of a velocity meas- 
urement such that when one fuzziness becomes less the other 
becomes greater in proportion. It follows that it is at present 
impossible to make measurements that will permit the accu- 
rate calculation of the position of a particle at some future 
time. In this sense, therefore, the future position of the parti- 
cle is not determined, and the particle in its motion is not 
subject to causality. This situation is often described by say- 
ing that it is not possible to make simultaneous measurements 
of position and velocity with sufficient precision to predict 
the future position (or velocity) — the implication being that 
for some reason "position" and "velocity," although "really 
there," are not accessible to us simultaneously. Bohr cannot 
insist too strongly that this is not a legitimate way of talking; 
that, if "in principle" position and velocity cannot be known 
simultaneously, then the object cannot simultaneously "have" 
position and velocity. We can, however, choose which it is 
to "have" by our choice of the measuring instrument. A great 
deal of Bohr's analysis has been devoted to a detailed con- 
sideration of the greatest variety of different methods of 
measurement and to showing in detail that the fuzziness de- 
scribed by Heisenberg's principle is a consequence of the 
reaction between the measuring instrument and the object 
being measured. It was an essentially new insight for the 
physicist that the act of acquiring knowledge itself disturbs 
the object of knowledge. The further fact that the disturbance 
so introduced is uncontrollable as far as we can now see is 
fundamental to the structure of wave mechanics. 

Bohr's principle of complementarity, which is one of the 
chief bones of contention, may be described as a working 
out of the consequences of seriously accepting all the impli- 
cations of the statement that a body cannot simultaneously 
have position and velocity. We can use either method of 
description as we choose, but having made our choice we 
must abandon use of the other. The principle has more gen- 
eral applications that just to position and velocity; the chief 
consequence is that if we choose to describe a system in 
conventional terms of space and time we must renounce the 
possibility of describing it in causal terms, or if we choose to 
describe it in causal terms we must renounce describing it in 

62 / Detenninum and Freedom 

terms of space and time. Involved in all this, in a way that is 
perhaps not always very explicitly evident, is the insight that, 
since an object never occurs naked but always in conjunction 
with an instrument of measurement or the means by which 
we acquire knowledge of it, the concept of "object," as some- 
thing in and of itself, is an illegitimate one. Acceptance of 
this insight with all its implications is obviously going to 
react strongly on our idea of "reality," and many of the objec- 
tions to the orthodox view arise precisely from unwillingness 
to accept the altered view of "reality." 

What is Bohr's own attitude toward his orthodox doctrine? 
I can only guess, of course, but I think it safe to say that, if 
in the future experimental detail is discovered of which we 
now have no inkling, by means of which it would be possi- 
ble to predict the individual photons in an interference pat- 
tern, Bohr would simply accept the fact, as would every sci- 
entist, and recognize that the present wave mechanics, as a 
method of dealing with the complete physical situation, 
would have to be abandoned. For practical purposes of cal- 
culation within the appropriate range, however, wave me- 
chanics could be retained, just as Newtonian mechanics has 
its range of application even after the formulation of relativity 
theory. But just as relativity theory forced a conceptual revo- 
lution, so I think discovery of at present unsuspected experi- 
mental detail would force a conceptual revolution in Bohr's 
point of view, and I believe that Bohr would be the first to 
recognize this. The question of Bohr's private opinion as to 
the probability of the discovery of new kinds of experimental 
facts is another matter. One may guess that he considers the 
probability rather remote, or he would not have spent so 
much time and thought on elaborating his present position. 

The possibility of the discovery of new experimental facts 
that would invalidate present quantum theory has often been 
discussed. A roughly equivalent formulation is to ask whether 
there may not be "concealed parameters" in addition to 
those we now know and in terms of which we can adequately 
describe present experimental knowledge. In this connection 
there is an often quoted analysis by von Neumann, which 
seems to be generally accepted as rigorous, to the effect that 
it is not permissible to suppose that there may be "concealed 
parameters" of such a kind that the principle of causality 
would be saved by their introduction, because the present 
quantum symbolism has no place for such new parameters, 
which could not be introduced without sacrificing the sue- 

Determinism in Modem Science / 63 

cessful account of experiment that we now achieve with our 
present parameters. In this analysis "causal" is understood 
with the usual connotation of the physicist as being the sort 
of complete causality that is inconsistent with Heisenberg's 
relation. Von Neumann's argument does not apply to such 
an emasculated definition of causality as is satisfied with a 
psi function causally controlled. I digress here to remark on 
an apparent inconsistency with a pronouncement of Poin- 
car6's, in the days when Planck's h was still new, to the effect 
that no system whatever, no matter how strange its be- 
havior, can be peremptorily declared inconsistent with classi- 
cal mechanics if one admits the possibility of sufficiently 
complicated concealed parameters. For one can, if necessary, 
imagine concealed inside each weirdly behaving atom, or 
elsewhere, a robot with written instructions to act exactly 
as the atom actually does. A robot, we may assume, is a 
classically functioning mechanism. The joker is that the con- 
cealed mechanisms reproducing the supposedly unmechanical 
behavior must be completely isolated from outside contact or 
access, so that there is no method whatever by which their 
existence can be established, and for all practical purposes 
we are dealing with a pure verbalism. 

The question of Bohr's personal attitude is, after all, more 
or less beside the point. We need not accept any more of 
Bohr's opinions on the "philosophical" questions involved 
here than are necessarily implicit in what Bohr has done in 
distinction to what he has said. It seems to me that what Bohr 
has done, essentially, is, in the first place, to take seriously 
the thesis that we shall never discover experimental detail 
that will restore causal control to atomic events and the in- 
sight that nothing occurs except as part of a larger whole; 
and, in the second place, to try to develop a logically con- 
sistent way of thinking about what we find. I am not sure 
Bohr would maintain that he had devised a system of thought 
logically watertight in all conceivable aspects, but I think 
we can see that he has gone a long way toward success and 
that the problem he has set himself is one that cannot be 

One can describe the problem Bohr has set himself in an- 
other equally noncommittal way: namely as the problem of 
devising a method of talking about the presently known ex- 
: perimental situation that will emphasize the occurrence of 
events we cannot predict. 

It seems to me that most of the criticisms of Bohr arise 

64 / Detenninum and Freedom 

from unwillingness to accept the conditions of the problem 
Bohr has effectively set himself. Perhaps part of the unwill- 
ingness arises from failure to appreciate the purely formal 
aspects of the problem of devising methods of thinking about 
a hypothetical physical situation. Regarding the problem in 
this formal light, one should be able to attack it purely as an 
intellectual exercise. But I believe the unwillingness actually 
involves many other factors, some of them recognizably 
emotional. The reason people will not see the problem in a 
purely formal light is that the hypothetical state of affairs 
basic to the problem is so much at variance with their con- 
ventional and traditional pictures of what the experimental 
situation must be that they will have none of it, and even re- 
fuse to speculate how they might act if it actually existed. The 
repugnance of different persons to accept the possibility that 
the world is actually constructed according to the hypothesis 
I of orthodox quantum theory varies greatly and may involve 
iconsiderations closely approaching the religious. This is per- 
haps most strikingly shown by Einstein, who could not bring 
himself to accept the idea that chance plays a fundamental 
role in the scheme of things, and who passionately exclaimed, 
"Der Herr Gott wiirfelt nicht" ("The Lord God does not 
throw dice"). Einstein's repugnance led him so far that, in- 
stead of postulating that there might be experimental facts 
not yet discovered, which is a perfectly tenable position and 
all that he needed, he was convinced that no theory giving 
a fundamental place to probability could be logically consist- 
ent, and he spent a great deal of time trying to point out 
logically untenable aspects of quantum theory, always to 
be patiently refuted by Bohr. 

Many alternatives for the orthodox interpretation have 
been proposed, especially recently. I have neither the time nor 
the competence to attempt to specify them in detail and to 
classify them. There is an illuminating paper on this aspect 
of the situation by Professor Margenau in Physics Today.^ I 
shall content myself with some very general comments. 

There are in the first place those who maintain that it is 
possible to save the causality principle. A classified grouping 
together of the various interpretations that attempt to maintain 
the causality principle would cut across the lines of classifica- 
tion proposed by Professor Margenau; he himself would be 
found in this class, although in his own classification he stands 

» 7, 6-13, 1954. 

Detenninism in Modem Science / 65 

alone. The causality principle is usually saved by transferring 
its sphere of operation from concrete individual events to the 
probabilities in terms of which the theory describes the sta- 
tistics of many occurrences of the individual event. This is 
possible because the psi function of wave mechanics, which 
describes the statistics, satisfies a definite differential equation, 
and therefore unfolds in an orderly and predictable way with 
time. The psi function may therefore be said to be causal in 
the sense that its future distribution is determined by its 

Now, no one can deny that the psi function satisfies an 
equation according to which it unfolds systematically in time; 
the question is, why do those who save the causality principle 
in this way regard this behavior of the psi function as perti- 
nent or significant, and why do they regard this way of saving 
the causality principle with so much satisfaction? No one 
who maintains the causality principle by this method would 
claim that the individual event, such as the single photon in 
an interference pattern, thereby becomes causally determined. 
We are here in the presence of a dilemma, for, in spite of the \ 
fact that we apparently must give up causality for individual 
atomic events, it is obvious that there is some sort of regu- 
larity here, since the apparently haphazard individual photons 
somehow build themselves into a regular pattern when there 
are a great many of them. What is behind this regularity? 
The fact of the regularity may be formally described by say- \ 
ing that there are laws of statistical behavior, although there \ 
are not laws for individual events. But how can this be? How 
can individual events, each of which is completely haphazard, 
combine into regular aggregates unless there is some factor of 
control over their combination into aggregates, and what 
kind of control can there be over a haphazard event? 

The situation is almost imthinkable with the ordinary con- 
notations of our words. It becomes rationally less repugnant, 
perhaps, if we can rediscover on another level the regularity 
that we have lost on the level of individual events. This I 
think accounts for sfMne of the satisfaction of those who em- 
phasize that the psi function, which describes the statistics 
of physical situations, is itself not subject to chance, but is 
controlled by an equation as deterministic as the equations 
of classical physics. Such a causality is, however, but a poor 
ghost of the robust causality of the classical conception, which 
ascribes a cause (and an effect also) to every event. I believe, 
however, that there is a deeper undercurrent in the thinking 


66 / Determinism and Freedom 

of such people than merely the desire to recover a moiety of 
rationality; they feel that they can now say, "The world is 
really deterministic and causal, after all, in spite of super- 
ficial appearances to the contrary." Such a feeling usually 
carries the further consequence that the psi function is as- 
cribed an "objective reality," for what is the use of a really 
determined world if the thing that is determined is not real? 
This brings up the whole question of the meaning of 
"reality," a term that has undergone a surprising renascence 
in the usage of physicists after a period of conscious absten- 
tion. The word is freely used by Schrodinger and de Broglie, 
and even Max Born uses it on occasion. As would be ex- 
pected, there is no clean-cut specification of the meaning of 
"reality." One is often left to infer the meaning by observing 
the usage, as when an author says, "Everyone would agree 
that such-and-such a situation is real." I have yet to see, how- 
ever, an attempt at a definition of reality that would justify 
one in saying that a probability is objectively real. 

Here we encounter one of those situations in which, in 
spite of long discussion, there is not even yet consensus, for 
there still are different schools of thought with regard to prob- 
' ability. There are some who maintain that individual con- 
1 Crete events "have" a probability, and that it is possible to 
\find what this probability is. Professor Margenau is one of 
these, and his conception of probability is basic to his inter- 
pretation of wave mechanics. He defiJaes his probability in 
terms of frequency, and he obtains the probability of a spe- 
cific event by observing its frequency of occurrence. I think 
he would say that any actual observation of frequency can 
give only a rough value for the probability, because of the 
finite size of the sample, but that nevertheless it is good 
enough for practical purposes. Now, to me — and here I enter 
controversial territory — any such view of probability that 
allows one to say — and to attempt to prove that he is right 
when he says it — that the probability of some concrete event 
is some specific number rests simply on poor observation and 
poor reporting of what he does when he applies the proba- 
bility concept to some concrete situation. What can one pos- 
sibly do to show that there was a one-sixth chance that a 
particular throw of a die would yield a three when the actual 
throw has been made and yields a three? It seems to me that 
the meaning of probability must be found in another sphere 
of activity. Inspection of what we do leads, I believe, to a 
view of probability expressed by Max Born as follows: 

Determinism in Modem Science / 67 

"Chance can be understood only in regard to expectations of 
a subject."^ Elsewhere, however, he says that probability 
must be recognized to have some "objective" reference be- 
cause we successfully apply probability to objective situations. 
This sort of tenuous second-hand objectivity, however, is ap- 
parently not what Professor Margenau and others have in 

We return to the question of the frame of mind of those 
who are so firmly resolved that there shall be an underlying 
order that they are satisfied to find it even in probability. It 
appears to me that their views often have some pretty deep 
emotional roots. Many men apparently crave a friendly uni- 
verse, one in which they can feel themselves at home at least 
to the extent that they can believe the universe intrinsically 
understandable by the human mind. Because a universe with- 
out underlying regularities would not be understandable, 
simply owing to the method of functioning of the human 
mind, there follows the resolution that there shall be regu- 

A slightly different twist is given to this point of view by 
the German philosopher Ernst Cassirer in his book Deter- 
minism and Indeterminism in Modern Physics,* recently 
translated into English, with an introduction by Professor 
Henry Margenau. For Cassirer the domain of natural law is 
not the domain of objective things but of cognitions; natural 
laws are defined by the ordering of cognitions that they make 
possible. For him the causal relation is epistemologically nec- 
essary. He says: 

We find the essential significance of the causal relation, if 
interpreted in a critical rather than a metaphysical sense, to be 
that it contains a statement not immediately about things but 
about experience, by which and in virtue of which alone things, 
as objects of knowledge, can be given us. It expresses something 
about the content of empirical knowledge.* 

If one reads between the lines, particularly in the early part 
of the book, where Cassirer says in one place, "Ignorabimus 
is the only answer that science can give to the question of 
the essence and origin of consciousness,"^ I think one is justi- 
fied in believing that Cassuer displaces the domain of law and 

» Proc. Roy. Soc, 66, 503, 1953. 

* Trans, by O. Theodor Benfey (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1956). 
»/fcid., p. 114. 

• Ibid., p. 5. 

68 / Determinism and Freedom 

causality from the physical to the mental world because of 
his belief in the existence of a mental world inaccessible by 
the methods of science. 

Whether or not this is a fair evaluation of Cassirer's atti- 
tude, I think that one cannot read the many writings of 
physicists on this question without feeling that they, too, have 
injected something nonphysical into the situation. This is 
usually unconscious, perhaps, but may break forth into articu- 
late expression, as in the following quotation from Schrod- 

. . . there is a tendency to forget that all science is bound up 
with human culture in general, and that scientific findings, even 
those which at the moment appear the most advanced and 
esoteric and difficult to grasp, are meaningless outside their 
cultural context. A theoretical science, unaware that those of its 
concepts considered relevant and momentous are destined even- 
tually to be framed in concepts and words that have a grip on 
the educated community and become part and parcel of the 
general world picture — a theoretical science I say, where this is 
forgotten, and where the initiated continue musing to each other 
in terms that are, at best, understood by a small group of fellow 
travellers, will necessarily be cut off from the rest of cultural 
mankind; in the long run it is bound to atrophy and ossify.'' 

There is more in a similar vein; one point of particular em- 
phasis is that the physicist should not allow himself to forget 
his organic connection with the past. Now, some of the impli- 
cations of Schrodinger's attitude can be unhesitatingly ac- 
cepted; nearly everyone would agree that society as a whole 
has a vital stake in the scientific enterprise and that therefore 
it is desirable to find the means for disseminating as widely 
as possible an appreciation of the nature of science and a 
knowledge of its factual findings. But it seems to me that 
other and wider implications are unmistakable — the implica- 
tion that it behooves the scientist in his theoretical construc- 
tions to cast his thinking into idioms of his times and his 
culture. In some ways this is a most surprising admonition. 
I had supposed everyone recognized that as a matter of fact 
the theories of the scientist are colored by contemporary cul- 
ture, but that this was nevertheless something to be regarded 
as undesirable, although unavoidable because rooted in hu- 
man frailty. I had supposed that the ideal of the theorist was 
to erect a structure determined as far as possible by the facts 

''Brit. JouT. Phil. Set., 3, 109, 1952. 

Determinism in Modem Science / 69 

themselves functioning autonomously, and that, if he could 
discern that his structure was being influenced by the intel- 
lectual fashion of the times, scientific integrity demanded that 
he resist as far as he could. I am old-fashioned enough to be 
shocked at the suggestion that the scientist should cut his 
cloth to the general intellectual fashion of his times, but I 
very much fear that Schrodinger has put his finger on a 
change in the intellectual atmosphere of the scientist. I find it i 
hard, in reading the recent discussions of causality and de- 
terminism, to resist the impression that many of the debaters 
were influenced by extrascientific considerations. This influ- 
ence is evident even in the work of Max Born, who says, in 
combating Schrodinger's thesis that it is waves and not parti- 
cles that are fundamental, "I think Schrodinger's suggestion is 
impracticable and against the spirit of the time."* This is 
perhaps unfair to Born, who may have been throwing back 
into Schrodinger's teeth his demand that the theorist be aware 
of his cultural background, but nevertheless one could wish 
that Born had not said it. 

Among writers of less scientific stature than Born the in- 
fluence of extrascientific factors is unmistakable. This is par- 
ticularly evident in Mario Bunge's paper "Strife About Com- 
plementarity."^ The burden of Bunge's paper is that physicists 
are at last awakening from the "dogmatic slumber" in which 
they have accepted "the official philosophy of quantum 
theory, which is essentially of a positivistic character" and 
are embarking instead on "new, realistic, rationalistic, and de- 
terministic trends." It seems to me that there is too little 
argument in the paper and too much name-calling. It is as- 
sumed that the reader will react negatively to such epithets as 
"positivistic" and "empiristic" and positively to "realistic," 
"deterministic," and "scientific materialism." The assumption 
that the reader will react in the expected way to these epithets 
and that it is desirable that he should so react obviously does 
not have its origin in any purely scientific experience. In par- 
ticular it seems to me that a strong odor of Marxian dialectic 
is detectable here. 

Bunge lists four axioms "underlying every scientific en- 
deavor and confirmed by its failures and successes": (a) 
nature and every one of its parts is inexhaustible, actually as 
well as potentially; (b) nature is an interconnected whole, so 

8 Guthrie lecture, p. 507. 

"Brit. Jour. Phil. Set., May 1955. 

70 / Determinism and Freedom 

that the complete specification of a single object would re- 
quire the complete specification of the whole universe; (c) 
knowledge is as inexhaustible as its objects; (c^) we are limited 
to a finite number of variables, whereas the complete speci- 
fication of every bit of matter would presumably require an 
infinite number of variables. It is not quite clear what is meant 
by calling these "axioms." The meaning cannot be that all 
scientific workers do as a matter of fact follow these axioms, 
for Bunge's contention is that the orthodox interpretation of 
quantum mechanics does not follow these axioms and there- 
fore cannot be correct. Neither can "axiom" be used in the 
sense of mathematical postulate analysis, where an axiom is a 
formally accepted preliminary to a deduction of the logical 
consequences concealed in the axiom. Sfurely no one would 
maintain that the physicist is any more restricted than the 
mathematician in setting up any system of axioms that he 
pleases and deducing he consequences. "Axiom" must mean 
something else; its usage indicates that it ought to be de- 
scribed, rather, as a precept or maxim that "should" guide the 
scientist. We may well ask, Whence comes the authority 
claimed for these precepts? Surely it does not come from any 
scientific experience but from something extrascientific, some- 
thing that is never formulated and can only be guessed at. 

Considering the axioms in detail, one can have little objec- 
tion to the first, if it is to be taken as advising the theorist 
that he would do well to leave room in his thinking for the 
discovery of at present unknown facts; but it is to be rejected 
if it suggests that it is illegitimate for the physicist to specu- 
late what the consequences would be if there were no new 
facts to be discovered, which I think is essentially what Bohr 
has done. The second axiom, that nature is so interconnected 
that the complete specification of a single object would re- 
quire the complete specification of the whole universe, is in 
the spirit of the old Newtonian mechanics, which could set 
up a formula giving numerically the gravitational interaction 
of any two objects in the universe, no matter how small or 
how remote from each other. But this axiom is completely di- 
vorced from any possible experience and furthermore violates 
the spirit of the first axiom, because it effectively says that 
nature is so constituted that there is no minimum interaction 
below which one object has no effect on another, and in so 
saying presumes to dictate the structure of future experience. 
Not only this, but it is inconsistent with the structure of our 
present experience, for one of the consequences of Planck's 

Determinism in Modem Science / 71 

discovery of h is precisely that it showed that there are, as 
a matter of fact, minimum interactions. I remember my own 
almost audible relief when I saw that in discovering the ex- 
istence of h Planck had absolved me of the necessity of be- 
lieving that the slightest motion of an atom on this earth has 
some effect on every atom in Sirius, an idea that always 
seemed to me absurd to the point of grotesqueness. I never 
was willing to push mathematics so far or to take it so seri- 
ously. Yet the Newtonian view is the one to which the classi- 
cal conception of causality would lead one. 

Bunge's other two precepts, (c) and (d), may be taken in 
the same spirit as the first in so far as they are not truisms, 
namely as offering advice as to the direction that theory may 
take in order to be probably profitable, but in no sense as 
setting limits to the direction that it must take. I have doubt- 
less devoted a disproportionate amount of space to Bunge's 
paper, but it does seem to me to offer an illuminating example 
of what may happen when we allow ourselves to be unduly 
influenced by extrascientific considerations. 

The attentive reader can perhaps detect an undercurrent of 
disapproval in my ascription of extrascientific motives to 
those who are led by their desire for a friendly universe to 
^_d^mand determinism and to repudiate probability as an ulti- 
~"mate. The same repudiation, however, may arise from con- 
siderations not necessarily emotional at all. One of the funda- 
mental drives of the scientist is to find explanations for the 
things around him. If one accepts probability as ultimate, he | 
hsis., ^^Y t he yejy ( j gfirijtion of probability, givenjjp Jhe jpossi- T 
bility_of _explan ation7T would concede thafgnelias a per|cct 
right not to give*\ip the possibility of explanation except in 
the very last resort, and to follow as long as he can a pro- 
gram of theorizing that envisages the ultimate possibility of 
finding some sort of "explanation." It seems to me that it is 
in this spirit that de Broglie has returned, in his most recent 
book, to a further examination of the consequences of as- 
suming a sort of ghost mathematics back of the recognized 
mathematics of wave mechanics — a mathematics in which 
most of the present results are reproduced but that retains a 
place for possible causality. 

I should now like to present the conclusions to which I my- 
self have come. There have been several guiding insights: In 
the first place, the so-called microscopic world, which is com- 
monly thought to be the arena of quantum theory, is really 
nothing but the altered world of our own macroscopic expert- 

72 / Determinism and Freedom 

ence — altered because we have learned new sorts of macro- 
scopic manipulations such as constructing microscopes or 
Wilson cloud chambers or Geiger counters. It is consequently 
to be expected that the roots of the difficulties revealed to 
us by quantum theory are already present in the sphere of 
ordinary life and should be discoverable by acute enough 
analysis. Secondly, the process of acquiring information or 
knowledge in any physical situation must interfere with and 
to some extent alter the system about which we wish to ac- 
quire information. This means that no object can ever be 
strictly isolated and considered in and for itself, but must be 
treated as a part of a larger system in which at least the instru- 
ment by which we acquire knowledge is included. It is further 
made plain that aspects of a situation about which we have 
no actual or potential knowledge can be of no concern. Such 
aspects can only be talked about, and then not without con- 
cealed self-contradiction. Finally, our ultimate concern is with 
events or happenings rather than things. With a background 
of this sort it seems to me that we can face the world as re- 
vealed to us by quantum theory without feeling that it does 
not make sense. 

Take in the first place the consideration that the object of 
knowledge is not to be separated from the instrument of 
knowledge. Two extreme limiting cases are to be recognized: 
the instrument is very small compared with the object, and the 
object is very small compared with the instrument. Since we 
are in the last resort the instrument for acquiring knowledge, 
the two limiting cases are: objects large compared with us and 
objects small compared with us, or, in other words, simply 
large and small objects. Now, it seems to me to make sense to 
suppose that a small instrument can find out more about a 
large object than a large instrument can find out about a small 
object. The small instrument can explore the large object bit 
by bit in a way impossible for a large instrument with a small 
object. It also seems to me to make sense to suppose that more 
perfect knowledge of the large object would make possible 
more effective ways of dealing with it. In particular, I think 
it makes sense to find that we can predict the future behavior 
of a large object but not that of a small object. This is merely 
another way of saying that it makes sense that causality should 
fail for small objects. As part of the same picture, the Heisen- 
berg uncertainty relation does not outrage my feeling of what 
makes sense. Of course these very vague general considera- 
tions can give no hint of the mathematical form of the Heisen- 

Determinism in Modem Sdence / 73 

berg relation or of the existence of Planck's h — this must 
come from the detailed analysis of the actual experiments. 

As another example, consider the often quoted paradox that 
an electron has no individuality or identity. The paradox dis- 
appears if one no longer thinks of an electron as an "object," 
but as an aspect of what happens in particular kinds of physi- 
cal situations — including in the physical situation all the in- 
strumentation by which the electron is detected or measured. 
Under such conditions it need make no more sense to ask 
whether the electron we now observe is the "same" as the 
electron we observed a moment ago than to ask whether the 
wind that now cools our cheek is the same as the wind that 
blew yesterday. The paradox disappears even from such state- 
ments as that we can "choose" whether the electron is to have 
position or velocity. The electron in and by itself does not 
"have" either position or velocity; these pertain to what hap- 
pens in the whole situation, including the instrumentation. We 
can set up a "position situation" or a "velocity situation" as 
we please by suitably arranging the apparatus. There is surely 
nothing paradoxical here. 

I think quantum mechanics make sense, and I think that the 
fact that it does make sense and hangs together logically 
means, among other things, that a law of causality or a deter- 
ministic structure for the universe or an underlying continu- /si 
ity as distinguished from discreteness is not, as has often been s / 
maintained, a necessary prerequisite to rational thought. But '^ 
whether quantum mechanics will survive is a different ques- 
tion, a question to which the answer rests with experiment. 
There is no present indication that experiment will decide 
against it. I would like to suggest, however, two directions in 
which I think future experiment might look for at present un- 
discovered structure. 

The first has to do with the significance of the successful use 
of the mathematical apparatus of statistics and probability. In 
this mathematical apparatus we had a ready-made tool admir- 
ably adapted to dealing qualitatively with situations chracter- 
ized by vagueness or experimental uncertainty or inaccuracy. 
The experimental check so far leaves nothing to be desired; 
nevertheless all our experimental checks have been of a rather 
special kind in that they have been confined to regions of high 
probability density. I should like to see developed an experi- 
mental method for dealing more in detail with regions of low, 
probability density. What inspires this suggestion is my lifelong j 
repugnance to such statements as that of Bertrand Russell, that- 

74 / Determinism and Freedom 

if we only wait long enough we shall certainly see a pail of 
water freeze on the fire. This may be conceded to be a rigorous 
consequence of the mathematics, but to me it is utterly incred- 
ible as a statement of physical fact. I would propose the ques- 
tion: Can phenomena be found anywhere corresponding even 
remotely to Russell's freezing of water on a fire? A more con- 
servative proposal would be the investigation of the fluctua- 
tions of fluctuation phenomena. 

The second direction in which I would look for new types 
of experimental evidence is suggested by our so-called free- 
dom to decide whether the electron shall have position or 
velocity. My question is : What are the limitations on the time 
at which we have to decide which it shall be? Ordinarily we 
make our choice long in advance; we set up a position ap- 
paratus or a velocity apparatus and then wait to catch an elec- 
tron in it. But what happens if we make our choice after we 
have caught our electron? Specifically, imagine an interfer- 
ence apparatus in which an electron passes through one hole, 
presently meets a first screen with two holes, and still later 
impinges on a second screen, where it forms part of an inter- 
ference pattern. If there had been only one hole in the first 
screen we would have got a pattern entirely different from that 
obtained with a two-hole screen. My question now is: What 
happens if we change from a one-hole screen to a two-hole 
screen (or vice versa) after the electron has passed the first 
hole and while it is in transit to the first screen? The same sort 
of experiment might even more instructively be performed 
with light quanta rather than with electrons. The general 
problem might be to study in closed systems the fine structure 
of macroscopic propagation phenomena that occur in times 
less than the time required by light to travel across the system. 
Such experiments have not yet been accessible to technique, 
but I am told that they soon will be. They might throw light 
on such problematic questions as the supposed instantaneous 
collapse of the psi function when new information is ac- 
quired at any point of a system. 

Finally, I should like to suggest what seems to me a limita- 
tion on all quantum theoretical analysis, or, for that matter, 
on the criticisms of that analysis. It has been a new insight, at 
\ least for the physicist, that the object of knowledge is not to 
\ be separated from the instrument of knowledge. This has 
\ I often been expressed by saying that an analysis of the role of 
\ the observer is necessary to an understanding of quantum 
\ theory. There the observer is identified with the instrument of 

Determinism in Modem Science / 75 

knowledge. It is well recognized that there is no sharp divid- 
ing line between the instrument of knowledge and the object 
of knowledge, and that for different purposes the line may be 
drawn at different places. Thus it may be drawn at the photo- 
graphic plate on which some event is recorded, or at the retina 
of the eye of the experimenter who examines the plate, or at 
the neural processes in the brain produced by the events at the 
retina. Wherever we draw the line, we eventually end with 
knowledge. Seldom, if ever, does the physicist ask what the 
nature of this knowledge is, because for his purposes he does 
not need to. If one wants a specific description of what the 
physicist's purposes are, the answer can be found by examin- 
ing what he does with his quantum theory: his use of it, for 
the most part, is limited to the atomic events he manipulates 
in his laboratory. But for purposes wider than those of the 
physicists, in particular for the purpose of acquiring the full- 
est possible understanding, we cannot forgo asking what this 
knowledge is that for the physicists is the end product. Here 
we obviously enter a field of great vagueness. From one point 
of view a question has no meaning if we cannot formulate 
what sort of an answer we should be willing to accept, and it 
must be admitted that it is not easy to formulate the condi- 
tions that should be satisfied if we are to feel that we had an 
understanding of the nature of knowledge. But I think that 
our groping quest may nevertheless have some direction. 
What gives me most disquietude here, and what I think quan- 
tum theory ignores in spite of its ostensible concern v/ith the 
observer, it the simple observation that knowledge never oc- 
curs except in conjunction with a nervous system that has 
itself been subjected to a most elaborate preconditioning. 
Furthermore, the nervous system is itself a physical system 
of a complexity so formidable that we are only beginning to 
have an inkling of how it functions. It seems to me that we 
cannot permanently be satisfied with an analysis that purports, 
as does quantum theory, to reduce to understandability the 
functioning of the ultimate structural units of the universe, 
when that understandability itself demands the cooperation of 
superstructures of as yet unfathomed complexity. 
' "-It seems to me that when we take full cognizance of the fact 
that we cannot get away from our nervous systems, we shall 
recognize intellectual limitations that we at present ignore. 
With such a background I would say to those who think quan- 
tum theory does not make sense that it at least makes sense 
that it should not make sense. 

Chapter 2 

The Relativity of Defermlfiism 

Milton K. Munitz, New York University 

The lack of consensus in current discussions about determin- 
ism in modern science, as Professor Bridgman has made 
amply clear, is not in any way due to a disagreement either 
about the experimental facts or about the mathematical calcu- 
lations employed in various formulations of physical theory. 
Professor Bridgman ascribes the defense of a deterministic 
view on the part of some writers to extrascientific motives of 
a specifically emotional sort, involving, among other things, 
a longing for a "friendly universe," one in which regularities 
are pervasively present. In briefly setting out his own views 
he has indicated why it makes sense to say, not that the uni- 
verse is unfriendly, but that causality, as he puts it, "should 
fail for small objects." Professor Bridgman, it would seem, 
finds a universe in which there is some objective element of 
indeterminism, one in which he finds himself perfectly at 

Now, whether or not emotional considerations are relevant 
factors in either accepting or rejecting a determinist view, 
there is another basis of approach, to which Professor Bridg- 
man alludes, that is of greater moment. He remarks that "we 
cannot forgo asking what this knowledge is that for the physi- 
cist is the end product." This is precisely the important kind 
of question to raise. It indicates at once that what we are con- 
cerned with is a philosophical question. Unfortunately, for 
Professor Bridgman this means, as he says, that at this point 
we "enter a field of great vagueness." Perhaps so. But whether 
or not the issue of determinism is vague in principle because 
it is a philosophical one, this issue, in so far as there is one, 
is not in any case internal to science; nor is it to be settled 
on emotional grounds. (I say "in so far as determinism is an 
issue" because the term is sometimes used in a purely techni- 
cal sense as a label for the specific type of differential equa- 
tions and their solutions in classical Newtonian mechanics; 
analogously, the equations of modern quantum mechanics, 
different in certain crucial respects, are called "indetermin- 


The Relativity of Determinism / 77 

istic") The issue of determinism is more nearly indicated by 
the problems that arise when one tries to decide whether to 
agree with Professor Bridgman when he says: "a law of 
causality or a deterministic structure for the universe or an 
vmderlying continuity as distinguished from discreteness is 
not ... a necessary prerequisite to rational thought." This 
type of question cannot be settled simply by consulting the 
above-mentioned "technical" meanings of determinism as 
used to label certain types of equations in physics. If settled 
at all, the issue of determinism is one to be resolved by trying 
to clarify the cognitive status of various types of statements 
in science, and among them a type of statement of which the 
principle of indeterminacy is a particularly intriguing example. 
It is the complex of differences in the philosophy of science, 
not in science, that emerges here and that helps us focus on 
the point where controversy genuinely arises. 

Perhaps I can best bring out my main point if I call atten- 
tion to what at first sight might seem to Professor Bridgman 
and others a somewhat strange coupling of his own views with 
that of a philosopher-scientist who, as he has reminded us, 
has taken an almost intransigent view, wholly opposite to his 
own, with respect to determinism: namely Einstein. I would 
suggest that Professor Bridgman, like many other "indeter- 
minists," has more in common with determinists like Einstein, 
from one philosophical point of view, than is sometimes 
recognized. What they have in common, indeed, is of more 
interest and importance than their differences. In order to sup- 
port this way of approaching the question, I should like to 
suggest in barest outline what seems to me at least one other 
entirely different way of looking at the matter, one that 
serves as a major alternative to this first type of philosophy. 
There is no question here of course of trying to prove the 
superiority of one philosophy of science over another. At 
best, what we may hint at is the manner in which certain diflS- 
culties and controversies dissolve when we shift our perspec- 
tive in a suflBciently fundamental way. The thesis I am 
proposing, in short, is that the whole controversy between 
determinism and indeterminism as it is customarily formu- 
lated is not finally to be settled by taking sides and showing 
the overwhelming merits of one of them. It is to be "settled" 
by taking seriously a philosophy of science in which the terms 
"determinism" and "indeterminism" not only imdergo radical 
change, but in doing so, require all scientific knowledge in- 
volving the use of theory to be deterministic. 

78 / Determinum and Freedom 

Various terms are at hand by which we may label these 
rival philosophies. Karl Popper, for example, has recently 
suggested the terms "essentialism" and "instrumentalism" as 
suitable ones, while the terms "realism" and "conventional- 
ism" may be preferred by others. Since, however, I wish to 
stress that one whole group of views, whether "determinist" 
or "indeterminist," has reference to what are alleged to be the 
structural features of events or situations or objects as "dis- 
closed" by scientific inquiry, I shall refer to this approach as 
basically "ontological." According to the other approach, 
"causality," "determinism," "necessity," "predictability," and 
other associated terms have to do primarily with the connec- 
tions between statements, which represent what is or is not 
present in the inference patterns of the scientist. This I shall 
call the "logical" approach. 

Einstein's lifelong opposition to those who regarded quan- 
tum physics as pointing to an element of genuine indetermin- 
ism or unpredictability among some of nature's events was 
based on a profound belief in what he thought of as the 
intelligibility of the universe. It was not simply that he 
thought, for example, that the program of field physics to 
which he devoted aU his energies would be more successful as 
a heuristic device for achieving better predictions or explana- 
tions, or that it was simply a more "congenial" point of view. 
Rather, he looked on nature in Spinozistic terms and referred 
to his Spinozism as his "religion." He thought of nature, to 
use his own favorite metaphor, as rather like a puzzle. The 
scientist tries to fit the pieces together or obtain solutions to 
his queries by seeking the uniquely correct way of specifying 
what the structvu-e is. Einstein believed the program of field 
physics to hold out the promise of eventually realizing this 
goal to a superior degree in comparison with any other. Ein- 
stein's dissatisfactions with quantum physics arose from the 
conviction that its conceptual foundations were essentially in- 
complete, that because of its statistical character quantum 
theory referred to "ensembles of systems and not to individual 

If one is going to criticize such a view philosophically, one 
can perhaps best begin by showing that the "root metaphor" 
on which it rests — that nature is like a puzzle with a unique 
solution — is really one that turns out to be cramping rather 
than liberating in its implications. Real puzzles are con- 
structed by men for men, and we know in advance that there 
is a favored solution. But why think of nature as a puzzle? 

The Relativity of Determinism / 79 

Men, being curious or troubled, find problems in nature, and 
in their religious moments they may even wish to dwell on 
an element of ineffable mystery connected with it. Given the 
problems that scientists encounter and pick out, they can offer 
a variety of possible answers. But why need we assume that 
there is some one supremely satisfactory way of dealing with 
these problems? Einstein's philosophy, one might say, is the 
outcome of projecting into the allegedly antecedent and in- 
dependent structure of facts what is at bottom a favored view 
but still only one of many possible theoretical views of things. 
His realistic rationalism is the result of reifying the concep- 
tualizations of a legitimate yet limited perspective into the 
necessities of things and events. The successes of the special 
and general theory of relativity in yielding explanations and 
predictions of a more adequate sort than those provided by 
earlier or rival theories — these the working physicist recog- 
nizes and gladly welcomes without having to subscribe to the 
ontologism of Einstein's philosophy of science. Such a work- 
ing physicist may rightfully insist on the use of quantum 
physics, even if in its conceptual basis it is wholly different 
from what Einstein would think of as desirable. And again he 
would do so on the simple pragmatic ground that it is suc- 
cessful in its predictions and explanations to a sufficiently high 
degree to warrant his use of it. But need there be any logical 
incompatibility in using side by side the wholly different 
techniques of inference or different analogical modes of view- 
ing things that constitute the foundations of these various 
theories? Not, he may say, if we do not commit ourselves in 
advance to the belief that nature has a structure that will 
yield its secrets to one and only one of these formulations. 
This is another way of saying that we have no compelling 
reason to believe that the theories with which the physicist 
works are, or aim to be, true, that they would disclose to us, 
as Galileo put it, "the language in which the Book of Nature 
is written." For nature is not really like a book written in a 
language at all. Hence nature is neither logical nor illogical, 
neither mathematical nor nonmathematical, neither rational 
nor irrational, and so neither determined nor undetermined. 
These predicates apply only to statements in human discourse, 
and the way in which such statements fit or not into certain 
accepted patterns of inference, patterns that in the case of 
empirical science are set up by men for dealing with the facts 
of observational experience. 

Now, unlike Einstein's, Professor Bridgman's orientation to 

80 / Determinism and Freedom 

physics is primarily that of an experimentalist, and this fact 
controls his interpretation of what is contained in the dis- 
tinctive ideas of quantum physics. If we examine the manner 
in which he expounds and illustrates the main principles of 
this physics, it becomes clear that he reads them as basically 
experimentally verifiable reports of what is found in the 
laboratory. First, Professor Bridgman tends to equate the 
physicist's process of acquiring knowledge with the process of 
acquiring information through the use of appropriate instru- 
mentation. It makes sense, he argues, on the submicroscopic 
as well as on the macroscopic level that the very process of 
acquiring information (knowledge) should interfere in some 
way with the "objects" whose "traits" are being examined, so 
that a more comprehensive perspective would include this 
very interaction itself in all its complexity, extending even so 
far as the still undisclosed intricacies of the human nervous 
system. Secondly, Heisenberg's principle of uncertainty is 
taken to describe the relation of relative fuzziness in the meas- 
urements, experimentally arrived at, of the velocity and posi- 
tion of subatomic particles. Finally, Professor Bridgman 
interprets what we are to understand by such a phrase as the 
"individuality of the electron" as not referring to some object 
existing in itself apart from the observer's interaction with 
"it," but as a more complex situational event. "The electron," 
he says, "in and by itself does not 'have' either position or 
velocity; these pertain to what happens in the whole situation, 
including the instrumentation." 

Granted the obvious importance of the experimentalist's 
instrumentation in obtaining information as a necessary and 
relevant ingredient in the process of obtaining knowledge of 
the physical world, it seems to me that the stress Professor 
Bridgman gives to the virtual identification of information 
and knowledge slurs over certain important distinctions be- 
tween the roles of theory and observation. Now, theory is 
primarily a matter of conceptual construction, having, as all 
thought must, a neurological base; but to speak of this element 
in knowledge as interacting with the object seems to me some- 
what queer and indeed confusing. It results from trying to 
put under the heading of apparatus what is actually not ap- 
paratus at all. Moreover, this way of approaching the matter 
has a further and perhaps more serious consequence. One as- 
sumes that theory is at best only a report of what one finds in 
experiment. The fact is, however, that Heisenberg's principle, 
for example, is not a report of what one discovers as a result 

The Relativity of Determinism / 81 

of trying to perform certain measurements. It is, instead, a 
defining element of quantum theory, and so, among other 
things, a way of specifying what for the purposes of the 
theory is to be regarded as a "particle." This is not the "parti- 
cle" of traditional mechanics, since, even on the level of 
theory, there is no possibility of simultaneous specification to 
any desired degree of accuracy of both its position and vel- 
ocity. What we have here, then, is a part of a diJB^erent and, 
in some ways, more complex set of theoretical ideas by means 
of which it is attempted to provide explanations and predic- 
tions for observed or observable facts. Similarily, what is re- 
ferred to as an "electron" or "photon" is not an object of 
direct observation, but represents in summary fashion a 
whole schema for interpretational devices and inferential 
techniques of theory that are brought to bear in thinking or 
reaching conclusions about observational materials. Professor 
Bridgman, it seems to me, though appearing to rely exclu- 
sively on what one finds in the laboratory, is actually letting 
in a good deal in the way of constructive theory and is thus 
perhaps giving a greater ontological weight to the terms of 
theory — as if these corresponded to some structural features 
of physical events — than need be done. He finds indeter- 
minism in the universe not really because the measurements 
of the laboratory force this interpretation, but because he is 
willing to accept the orthodox interpretation of quantum 
theory as describing the alleged structure of certain physical 
events. In displaying this confidence in orthodox quantum 
theory, he is expressing, I suspect, the same type of confidence 
in what theory can accomplish as Einstein, although the 
specific ontology, to be sure, is different. 

Now, instead of letting the reifications of one's ontological 
approach to scientific theory came in through either the front 
door or the back door, one might say, in the present context 
of discussion, that quantum theory is as deterministic as 
classical physics, or indeed as any theory, by its very nature, 
is bound to be. This means simply that a specific theory, what- 
ever its conceptual tools or analogical base, offers us a way, 
distinctive to itself, of making inferences from certain obser- 
vationally identifiable facts to others, and of interpreting 
what those experimental facts are. Any conclusions reached 
in accordance with the rules of inference specified by the 
theory are logically determined. Thus the principle of in- 
determinacy, among others, is part of a total physical theory 

82 / Determmism and Freedom 

that in its functioning provides determined results of a type 
it is competent to reach. If it proves successful in dealing with 
observational facts, it is not because "causality fails for small 
objects" but because man's creative intellectual ingenuity has 
found one more means for dealing effectively through his 
inferences with the data of his experience. 

Chapter 3 

The Case for Indeterminism 

Alfred Lande, Ohio State University 

Professor Bridgman has painted a lively picture of the strife 
about determinism. It is a strife not so much about empirical 
facts as about the interpretation of facts. Many consider de- 
terminism the only rational interpretation — if not an aprioris- 
tic category of the mind. They v/ould admit indeterminacy 
in modern physics only as a temporary expedient adapted to 
our present incapacity to predict microphysical events, an 
incapacity that may be overcome by future technical develop- 
ments. In opposition to this view I agree with Bridgman 
when he said: "it makes sense that causality should fail for 
small objects." But I would go even further and maintain that, 
irrespective of any possible future technical developments, 
determinism does not and never will make sense,^ in particu- 
lar when applied to those random-like situations we know 
from games of chance. The question is, of course, whether 
there are true games of chance, i.e., random-like situations 
that are irreducible to concealed causes in principle. In this 
argument about principles it makes little difference whether 
the random-like situations are those encovmtered in atomic 
experiments, in dice games, or in the games insurance com- 
panies play with their clients. Therefore I shall have to extend 
our topic from determinism in modern science to natural 
science in general. My excuse for this deviation is Bridgman's 
own declaration: "It is to be expected that the roots of the dif- 
ficulties revealed to us by quantum theory are already present 
in the sphere of ordinary life, and should be discoverable by 
acute enough analysis." Let us therefore analyze an example 
taken from ordinary life. 

Imagine a game of balls dropped through a chute onto a 
knife edge. The angle of aim a may be adjusted by a screw, 
and the knife edge may be sharp or slightly rounded. If the 
chute is aimed at the right (left) of center, all balls will drop 
to the right (left). Experience shows, however, that between 

1 Cf . the critique of determinism by K. R. Popper, Brit. J. Philos. Science 
1, Nos. 2 and 3. 


84 / Determinism and Freedom 

right- and left-hand aim there is always a small but finite 
range Aa of aim within which an experimentally adjusted 
angle a leads neither to all balls dropping to the right nor to 
all balls dropping to the left but rather to both r- and /-balls 
occurring at a certain frequency ratio. The latter varies from 
100 : to : 100 when the aim is shifted from the right to 
the left of the small range Ao. Primitive persons and other in- 
determinists will interpret this as a sign of uncertainty, of 
blind fate, with one and the same cause capable of being fol- 
lowed by two different effects, r or /. Determinists will say, 
however: "The distribution of the r- and /-results only appears 
to be erratic. Actually each individual result has its particular 
deterministic cause, be it a small deviation of the angle of 
aim, or a small perturbation of the ball on its flight." (Simi- 
larly, although insurance companies count on their frequency 
tables, each individual "accident" is not an accident but has 
its particular cause.) 

I submit, however, that the hypothesis of (concealed) indi- 
vidual causes behind individual effects r or / does not explain 
the essential point of the observed situation in a deterministic 
fashion. When the determinist ascribes the present final event 
r to an r-producing chain . . . r r r reaching back into the in- 
finite past, he merely shifts the problem r- and /-events to r- 
and /-chains and, further, to the beginning of those chains, if 
they have a beginning. We must ask him now for a determin- 
istic explanation of the strange empirical observation that 
those chains, or initial conditions, occur again and again at 
Va definite frequency ratio and, furthermore, why even the 
' fluctuations away from the average occur at a rate conforming 
i with the mathematical theory of random as though by a pre- 
-established harmony between fact and theory. It is this pre- 
fstablished harmony that calls for explanation. Referring to 
ithe infinite past, and saying that his harmony has always pre- 
vailed, is an evasion rather than a deterministic explanation. 
A stubborn determinist may defend his cause, however, by 
means of the following argument: "Once upon a time there 
was a demon who knew his mathematical random theory 
and who deliberately went out to deceive the observer. 
He first initiated two /--chains, then an /-chain, then four 
r-chains; then realizing that he had given too much pre- 
ponderance to r-chains, he thereupon started five /-chains 
in a row, cleverly arranging the whole sequence with 
averages and fluctuations so that a present-day scientist 
might be lured away from the true deterministic faith." 

The Case for Indeterminism / 85 

There seems indeed to be only the following alternative: 
Either the observed random-like distributions of final events 
or chains or initial conditions in games of chance repre- 
sent a basic and irreducible trait of nature. Or statistical dis- 
tributions only feign an appearance of random, when in real- 
ity there is, or has been, concerted deterministic action. Either 
a deus ex machina or no deteministic explanation at all. Since 
deceitful demons have no place in scientific theories, I have 
reluctantly joined the party of indeterminacy pure and 
simple. But I concede, that it is a party of renunciation with a 
purely negative creed. Most of my partisans, including my- 
self, suffer from a guilt complex that draws us toward our old 
infatuation, determinism. This infatuation may have its roots 
in a feeling of being ourselves demons who can deliberately 
start deterministic chains. In other words, it may be that we 
believe in strict determinism because we feel we have free wUl 
— a somewhat paradoxical psychological hypothesis. But as a 
scientist who observes games of chance, and who is unwilling 
to admit a deus ex machina (at the beginning of time, if there 
is a beginning, or a finite time ago), I must concede that the 
deterministic interpretation fails; and this applies not only to 
ordinary "games of chance" in which the statistical dispersion 
is obvious, but in general to those cases where a similar dis- 
persion of effects is revealed only by microphysical in- 

Empirically it is a most surprising fact, which could not 
have been foreseen a priori, that there are sequences of events 
in harmony with mathematical random theory. This empirical 
discovery was already made by cavemen when they gambled 
for the best pieces of a slain bear. But when irreducible ran- 
dom is once accepted, then it is a comparatively minor point 
of dispute whether (a) each new experiment constitutes a new 
game of chance (as quantum theory maintains), or {b) ran- 
dom was set up once, a long or an infinite time ago, and ran- 
dom distributions observed at present are but the deterministic 
effects of that one initial "shuffling of the cards" (as classical 
statistical mechanics maintains). The difference between the 
two positions may be illustrated by the example of a great 
number of arrows laid out as radii of a circle. Each individual 
arrow has its definite x- and y-component, positive or nega- 
tive. Suppose that the arrows are distributed over all directions 
in a random-like fashion, with or without the help of a demon. 
When viewing this ensemble through a circular glass disk, the 
northern half of which is transparent and the southern half 

86 / Determinism and Freedom 

opaque, one observes a statistical 50 : 50 ratio between visible 
and invisible arrows. The same ratio of visible to invisible ar- 
rows will be observed when the disk is held in the NE-SW- 
direction or in any other direction whatsoever. The frequency 
ratios in all these instances are deterministic consequences of 
the one original random distribution over all directions within 
the circle. Also, when an individual arrow of given x- and 
given y- component is viewed through our glass disk held in a 
given orientation, then it is predictable whether this arrow will 
be found belonging to the visible or the invisible group in that 
particular orientation of the disk. This is an illustration of the 
classical situation. Since it requires random mixing at least 
once, it is a soft determinism at most. 

Suppose now that our arrows are of microscopic magnitude 
and represent the spin directions of electrons. In this case not 
even a demon can lay out various spins in a variety of chosen 
directions simultaneously. Electronic arrows (spin directions) 
can only be laid out by means of a linear slit (a magnetic 
field). When the slit is held in the N5-direction the arrows will 
assume only the A^- and/ or 5-direction. If the arrows are now 
subjected to a new orientation test by means of a slit of NE- 
5fF-direction, each arrow has to jump from its original N- or 
5-direction either to the NE- or to the 5Pr-direction. The in- 
deterministic character of these jumps is proved, according to 
our former argument, by the mere fact that each new slit ex- 
periment actually yields a new statistical frequency ratio be- 
tween opposite arrows that, together with averages and fluctu- 
ations, conforms with the mathematical theory of random 
events. In the present instance the subsequent N : S and NE : 
SW ratios cannot be regarded as deterministic consequences 
of an original random distribution over all directions, since 
each new slit experiment collects all arrows within two op- 
posite directions only. Each new test is an independent game 
of chance in which it is unpredictable whether a given arrow 
will choose one or the opposite direction. This is the obvious 
and trivial inference from the fact, discovered by quantum 
physicists, that there are mutually incompatible quantities 
such as X- and j-components of an electronic spin vector (or 
an j:-component of position and an a:-component of momen- 
tum of any particle), so that one cannot provide an original 
random-like outlay of spins over all directions. 

Quantum theorists, however, do not seem to cherish such 
simple and elementary considerations, since they always refer 
to J. von Neumann's proof that quantum theory has no room 

The Case for Indeterminism / 87 

for concealed causal mechanisms. But what did von Neumann 
do to prove this result? He first introduced the whole involved 
apparatus of the quantum theory, thereby lifting us to a highly 
exalted plane. In this lofty atmosphere he carried out certain 
calculations, then brought his results back to earth again — 
when he could have stayed there all the time. Yet when von 
Neumann's conclusions were recently found to suffer from the 
fault of circularity, the determinists took heart again. Let it be 
said, however, that irrespective of von Neumarm and irrespec- 
tive of the technicalities of quantum mechanics, the mere ex- 
istence of mutually incompatible quantities a and b that re- 
quire statistical redistributions in consecutive a- and 6-tests 
leaves us no other alternative than either to assume a demon 
who feigns pseudo-random, or to concede that the harmony 
between statistical fact and random theory is deterministically 

The wide acclaim that von Neumann's (inconclusive) proof 
has found among theoretical physicists is symptomatic of the 
present vogue for considering quantum mechanics with all its 
subtleties, wave-particle antinomies, and bewildering mathe- 
matical prescriptions as the ultimate and irreducible ground 
structure, the deepest bottom of theoretical analysis. This 
fundamentalist dogma is quite in opposition to Bridgman's 
and my own view that the enigmatic quantum laws ought to 
be explainable as consequences of more fundamental laws 
having their roots in the experiences of everyday life. In order 
to support this view I should like to ask my determinist op- 
ponents: "Do you accept the principle, abstracted from every- 
day experience, that a finite effect calls for a finite cause, that 
a finite change of effect can never be produced by an infinitely 
small change of cause? If you accept this principle of con- 
tinuity of Leibnitz, you have already lost your case!" 

To return to our ball-knife game; If the chute is aimed at 
the right (left) of the knife edge, then all balls will drop to the 
right (left) of the knife. But suppose that the angle a of aim 
is gradually shifted from right to left. Will this lead to an 
abrupt change of effect, from all balls dropping to the left, 
at the moment when the aim passes the center? If so, it would 
constitute a violation of the postulate of continuity. According 
to this postulate there ought to be a finite range Aa of transi- 
tion from the one extreme case to the other — a range Ao 
within a given angle a of aim leads to the dropping of a nu- 
merical fraction of all balls to the right and of the remaining 
fraction to the left. This is exactly the situation observed, dis- 

88 / Determinism and Freedom 

cussed previously. The postulate of continuity thus leads to 
the same statistical situation by inference that we have ac- 
cepted before simply as a strange matter of fact discovered by 

A slight variant of the game of dropping balls on a knife 
edge leads to a vi'ell-knovi'n phenomenon of quantum physics. 
Consider a stream of particles incident on a filter of some 
sort where they have to choose between passing and not pass- 
ing. Let us define an /4 -filter as an instrument that passes the 
incident particles when they are in the state A and rejects 
them when they are in a state different from A . Suppose, first, 
that our particles are in a state A and that we now modify 
them to a state B differing from A by some amount, however 
small. Are we to expect that this infinitely small change of 
state will abruptly convert all passing particles into blocked 
particles? According to the continuity principle there ought to 
be a gradual transition from the case B = A, with all B's 
passed, to the case B = A, with all B's rejected by the A- 
filter. That is, there ought to be intermediate cases of a 
"fractional equality," written B — A, in which neither all B's 
pass nor all are blocked — cases, then, in which a "splitting" 
of the incident B-state particles into a passing and a blocked 
fraction takes place. The continuity postulate in application 
to the sharp contrast between equality and inequality thus 
leads to the same "splitting effect" by inference that quantum 
physicists have discovered by delicate microphysical experi- 

Let us further introduce the principle of reproducibility of 
the result of a measurement. In the above experiment it re- 
quires that a B -state particle that has passed the /4 -filter once 
will pass an /I -filter again, the second time with certainty; 
that is, the S-particle must have "jumped" in its first passage 
to the new state A where it now remains (unless thrown into 
another state by a third test by means of a B- or C-filter). 
Similarly, a B-particle once rejected by the /i -filter will be 
rejected again in another /l-filter test; that is, it must have 
jumped from the state B to a state non-A, completely differ- 
ent from A. The observation that there is a definite statistical 
frequency ratio between passed and blocked particles shows, 
according to our previous argument, that those "quantum 
jumps" from B to A and/ or non-A represent a true game of 
chance that cannot be referred to hidden deterministic causes. 

One may supplement the postulate of continuity and repro- 
ducibility by a few other postulates of a simple and elementary 

The Case for Indeterminism / 89 

sort and from there arrive by inference at the mathematical 
and conceptual schema known today as the quantum theory ^ 
— thereby confirming Bridgman's opinion that the roots of 
this theory should be discoverable in the sphere of ordinary 
experience, and also confirming the statistical interpretation 
of Bom, Heisenberg, and Bohr. When the first surprising 
quantimi facts, such as E = hv, were brought to light, the 
theorists tried to explain them on the grounds of accepted 
principles of mechanics. When this attempt proved a failure, 
quantum theory with its various rules and prescriptions was 
finally accepted as not further reducible, as "fundamental." It 
also seemed so very convenient to listen to the positivistic 
siren song, that physicists should observe and describe, and 
not question why things are as they are. The negative attitude 
is accompanied today by ever repeated exhortations that the 
principle of complementarity is the most profound and sub- 
lime law of nature, applicable not only to microphysics but 
also to biology, psychology, and lately even to the relation 
between the sexes and among political power groups. In op- 
position to this cult it is hoped that the recently revived search 
for simple and general postulates underlying quantum theory 
may bring us one step nearer the goal of aU scientific en- 
deavor, which, according to a weU-coined phrase of Bridg- 
man's, is the goal of satisfying our curiosity. 

' A. Lande. Brit. J. Philos Set., 6, 300, 1956. Also Foundations of Quantum 
Theory, A Study in Continuity and Symmetry (New Haven: Yale University 
Press, 1955). 

^er 4 

Determinism and the Cosmos 

Dennis W. Sciama, Trinity College, Cambridge 

As A PHYSICIST I have found the following working hypothesis 
very useful: violent controversy about a scientific problem 
is a sign that some simple essential consideration is missing. 
The polemic, as it were, tries to substitute for the missing 
point, but of course it never can. I think for instance that this 
has been so in discussions of Mach's principle of the origin 
of inertia, and also of the problem deducing irreversible 
macroscopic behavior from reversible microscopic laws. 

Bridgman has reminded us that the physicists are con- 
ducting a violent controversy about the meaning of quantum 
mechanics. This situation is in striking contrast to that pre- 
vailing in classical mechanics; for although classical me- 
chanics is known to be false, there is no dispute as to its 
meaning. It is only in quantum mechanics (which is known 
to be true!) that there is such a dispute. Application of the 
working hypothesis suggests that some simple point has still 
to be made. My aim in these remarks is to propose one pos- 
sibility for this simple point, a proposal based mainly on the 
work of Dr. K. V. Roberts. 

The basic way in which quantum mechanics differs from 
classical mechanics is the following: our inferences about the 
future must be expressed in terms of probabilities. This intro- 
duction of probability would enable us to make the calcula- 

With this state of affairs in mind, let us make a new 
assumption. Let us suppose that in nature systems are deter- 
ministic in the sense that we can calculate the state of a 
system at time t if we know enough boundary conditions re- 
ferring to times other than t; but let us differ from classical 
mechanics by supposing that nature is so constructed that, 
roughly speaking, half the boundary conditions must refer to 
the past and half to the future of the moment t. In other 
words, we assume that nature is such that "mixed" boundary 
conditions are always needed. 

Presumably a system with such properties would be called 
deterministic. This is a matter of definition, of course; what 
is really important is that the behavior of the system is as 


Determinism and the Cosmos / 91 

well defined and intelligible as that of a system obeying classi- 
cal mechanics. But now we must ask: How would a "mixed" 
system appear to an observer who himself is part of the 

Now, such an observer, for reasons that cannot be elabo- 
rated here but that have to do with the second law of 
thermodynamics, is acquainted only with the past. Hence if 
he attempts to calculate the state of a system at a time t in 
his future, he will find that he cannot do so, for he does not 
know all the boundary conditions. His knowledge of the past 
boundary conditions will delimit the possibilities considera- 
bly, but it is clear that to the observer the system will appear 
to contain indeterminate elements. 

What sort of a theory wUl such an observer devise? In effect 
he will be forced to average over all those future boundary 
conditions that are compatible with his present knowledge. 
(Of course, at first he will not realize that this is what he is 
doing.) That is to say, he will be forced to introduce a 
probability calculus to account for his observations. The 
suggestion is that this probability calculus is just quantum 

In this way the correctness of quantum mechanics can be 
reconciled with a deterministic universe. In the language of 
von Neumann, there are hidden variables; they escape his ban 
because they refer to the future. 

We are now in a position to answer the question: Is quan- 
tum mechanical probability subjective or objective? We have 
seen that the probability arises from the observer's ignorance 
of some of the determining conditions. The probability is 
therefore subjective. 

So far the discussion has been academic in the sense that 
no new physical results have emerged. However there is an 
interesting possibility in this direction. For on the view pre- 
sented here quantum mechanics is no longer a primitive 
theory; it is a formalism that is derived from a more basic 
theory. Now, Planck's constant, h, is a measure of the 
"amount" of deviation from classical mechanics. In quantum 
mechanics as it stands today the numerical value of this con- 
stant is completely arbitrary. However, if quantum mechanics 
is deducible from a more basic theory, then presumably h, 
which is here a measure of our ignorance of the future, will be 
expressed in terms of quantities fundamental to the basic 
theory. Such a relation could be tested experimentally, and 
so the theory could be checked. 

PART ill 

m L@w mnd Etiiics 

Chapter 1 

Legal Resporaslbiiify csnd Excuses 

H. L. A. Hart, Oxford University 

It is characteristic of our own and all advanced legal sys- 
tems that the individual's liability to punishment, at any rate 
for serious crimes carrying severe penalties, is made by law 
to depend on, among other things, certain mental conditions. 
These conditions can best be expressed in negative form as 
excusing conditions : the individual is not liable to punishment 
if at the time of his doing what would otherwise be a punish- 
able act he is, say, unconscious, mistaken about the physical 
consequences of his bodily movements or the nature or quali- 
ties of the thing or persons affected by them, or, in some 
cases, if he is subjected to threats or other gross forms of 
coercion or is the victim of certain types of mental disease. 
This is a list, not meant to be complete, giving broad descrip- 
tions of the principal excusing conditions; the exact definition 
of these and their precise character and scope must be sought 
in the detailed exposition of our criminal law. If an individual 
breaks the law when none of the excusing conditions are 
present, he is ordinarily said to have acted of "his own free 
wUl," "of his own accord," "voluntarily"; or it might be said, 
"He could have helped doing what he did." If the determin- 
ist ^ has anything to say on this subject, it must be because he 

^ Earlier papers in this session will doubtless Iiave specified the variety of 
theories or claims that shelter under the label "determinism." For many pur- 
poses it is necessary to distinguish among them, especially on the question 
whether the elements in human conduct that are said to be "determined" 
are regarded as the product of sufficient conditions, or sets of jointly sufficient 
conditions, which include the individual's character. I think, however, that the 
defense I make in this paper of the rationality, moraUty, and justice of quali- 
fying criminal responsibility by excusing conditions will be compatible with 
any form of determinism that satisfies the two following sets of requirements. 

A. The determinist must not deny (a) those empirical facts that at present 
we treat as proper grounds for saying, "He did what he chose," "His choice 
was effective," "He got what he chose," "That was the result of his choice," 
etc; (b) the fact that when we get what we chose to have, live our lives as 
we have chosen, and particularly when we obtain by a choice what we have 
judged to be the lesser of two evils, this is a source of satisfaction; (c) the 
fact that we are often able to predict successfully and on reasonable evidence 


96 / Determinism and Freedom 

makes two claims. The first claim is that it may be true — 
though we camiot at present and may never be able to show 
that it is true — that human conduct (including in that expres- 
sion not only actions involving the movements of the human 
body but its psychological elements or components such as 
decisions, choices, experiences of desire, effort, etc.) is sub- 
ject to certain types of law, where law is to be understood in 
the sense of a scientific law. The second claim is that, if 
human conduct so understood is in fact subject to such laws 
(though at the present time we do not know it to be so), 
the distinction we draw between one who acts under excusing 
conditions and one who acts when none are present becomes 
imimportant, if not absurd. Consequently, to allow punish- 
ment to depend on the presence or absence of excusing con- 
ditions, or to think it justified when they are absent but not 
when they are present, is absurd, meaningless, irrational, or 
unjust, or immoral, or perhaps all of these. 

My principal object in this paper is to draw attention to 
the analogy between conditions that are treated by criminal 
law as excusing conditions and certain s imil ar conditions that 
are treated in another branch of the law as invalidating cer- 
tain civil transactions such as wills, gifts, contracts, and mar- 
riages. If we consider this analogy, I think we can see that 
there is a rationale for our insistence on the importance of 
excusing conditions in criminal law that no form of determin- 
ism that I, at any rate, can construct could impugn; and this 
rationale seems to me superior at many points to the two 
main accounts or explanations that in Anglo-American juris- 
prudence have been put forward as the basis of the recogni- 
tion of excusing conditions in criminal responsibility. 

In this preliminary section, however, I want to explain why 
I shall not undertake the analysis or elucidation of the mean- 
ing of such expressions as "He did it voluntarily," "He acted 
of his own free will," "He could have helped doing it," "He 

that our choice will be eSectiye over certain periods in relation to certain 

B. The determinlst does not assert and could not truly assert that we al- 
ready know the laws that he says may exist or (in some versions) must exist. 
Determinists diflEer on the question whether or not the laws are sufficiently 
simple (a) for human beings to discover, (fc) for human beings to use for 
the prediction of their own and others' conduct. But as long as It is not 
asserted that we know these laws I do not think this difference of opinion 
important here. Of course If we knew the laws and could use them for the 
detailed and exact prediction of our own and others' conduct, deliberation 
and choice would become pointless, and perhaps in such circumstances there 
could not (logically) be "deliberation" or "choice." 

Legal ResponsibUity and Excuses / 97 

could have done otherwise," I do not, of course, think the an- 
alysis of these terms unimportant: indeed I think we owe the 
progress that has been made, at least in determining what 
the "free will problem" is, to the work of philosophers who 
have pursued this analysis. Perhaps it may be shown that 
statements of the form "He did it of his own free will" or 
"He could have done otherwise," etc., are not logically incom- 
patible with the existence of the type of laws the determinist 
claims may exist; if they do exist, it may not follow that 
statements of the kind quoted are always false, for it may be 
that these statements are true given certain conditions, which 
need not include the nonexistence of any such laws. 

Here, however, I shall not attempt to carry further any 
such inquiries into the meaning of these expressions or to 
press the view I have urged elsewhere, that the expression 
"voluntary action" is best understood as excluding the pres- 
ence of the various excuses. So I will not deal here with a 
determinist who is so incautious as to say that it may be false 
that anyone has ever acted "voluntarily," "of his own free 
wUl," or "could have done otherwise than he did." It will 
help clarify our conception of criminal responsibihty, I think, 
if I confront a more cautious skeptic who, without commit- 
ting himself as to the meaning of those expressions or their 
logical or linguistic dependence on, or independence of, the 
negation of those types of law to which the determinist refers, 
yet criticizes our allocation of responsibility by reference to 
excusing conditions. This more cautious determinist says that, 
whatever the expressions "voluntary" etc. may mean, unless 
we have reasonable grounds for thinking there are no such 
laws, the distinctions drawn by these expressions cannot be 
regarded as of any importance, and there can be neither rea- 
son nor justice in allowing punishment to depend on the pres- 
ence or absence of excusing conditions. 


In the criminal law of every modern state responsibility for 
serious crimes is excluded or "diminished" by some of the 
conditions we have referred to as "excusing conditions." In 
Anglo-American criminal law this is the doctrine that a "sub- 
jective element," or "mens rea," is required for criminal re- 
sponsibility, and it is because of this doctrine that a criminal 
trial may involve investigations into the sanity of the accused, 
into what he knew, believed, or foresaw; into the questions 
whether or not he was subject to coercion by threats or 

98 / Determinism and Freedom 

provoked into passion, or was prevented by disease or transi- 
tory loss of consciousness from controlling the movements of 
his body or muscles. These matters come up under the heads 
known to lawyers as Mistake, Accident, Provocation, Duress, 
and Insanity, and are most clearly and dramatically exempli- 
fied when the charge is one of murder or manslaughter. 

Though this general doctrine underlies the criminal law, no 
legal system in practice admits without qualification the prin- 
ciple that all criminal responsibility is excluded by any of the 
excusing conditions. In Anglo-American law this principle is 
qualified in two ways. First, our law admits crimes of "strict 
liability."^ These are crimes where it is no defense to show 
that the accused, in spite of the exercise of proper care, was 
ignorant of the facts that made his act illegal. Here he is 
liable to punishment even though he did not intend to com- 
mit an act answering the definition of the crime. These are 
for the most part petty offences contravening statutes that 
require the maintenance of standards in the manufacture of 
goods sold for consumption; e.g., a statute forbidding the sale 
of adulterated milk. Such offenses are usually punishable with 
a fine and are sometimes said by jurists who object to strict 
liability not to be criminal in any "real" sense. Secondly, even 
in regard to crimes where liability is not "strict," so that 
mistake or accident rendering the accused's action uninten- 
tional would provide an excuse, many legal systems do not 
accept some of the other conditions we have listed as ex- 
cluding liability to punishment. This is so for a variety of 

For one thing, it is clear that not only lawyers but scientists 
and plain men differ as to the relevance of some excusing con- 
ditions, and this lack of agreement is usually expressed as a 
difference of view regarding what kind of factor limits the 
human capacity to control behavior. Views so expressed have 
indeed changed with the advance of knowledge about the 
human mind. Perhaps most people are now persuaded that it 
is possible for a man to have volitional control of his muscles 
and also to know the physical character of his movements 
and their consequences for himself and others, and yet be 
unable to resist the urge or temptation to perform a certain 
act; yet many think this incapacity exists only if it is associ- 

' For an Uluminating discussion of strict liability, see the opinion of Justice 
Jackson in Mortsetts v. United States (1952) 342 U.S. 246; 96 L. Ed. 288; 78 
S. Ct. 241. Also Sayre, "PubUc Welfare Offences," 33 Col. L. Rev. 58; Hall, 
Principles of Criminal Law (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1947), chap. x. 

Legal Responsibility and Excuses / 99 

ated with well-marked physiological or neurological symp- 
toms or independently definable psychological disturbances. 
And perhaps there are still some who hold a modified form 
of the Platonic doctrine that Virtue is Knowledge and believe 
that the possession of knowledge ^ (and muscular control) is 
per se a sufficient condition of the capacity to comply with 
the law.* 

Another reason limiting the scope of the excusing condi- 
tions is difficulty of proof. Some of the mental elements in- 
volved are much easier to prove than others. It is relatively 
simple to show that an agent lacked either generally or on a 
particular occasion volitional muscular control; it is somewhat 
more difficult to show that he did not know certain facts 
either about present circumstances (e.g., that a gun was 
loaded) or the future (that a man would step into the line 
of fire); it is much more difficult to establish whether or not 
a person was deprived of "self-control" by passion provoked 
by others, or by partial mental disease. As we consider these 
different cases, not only do we reach much vaguer concepts, 
but we become progressively more dependent on the agent's 
own statements about himself, buttressed by inferences from 
common-sense generalizations about human nature, such as 
that men are capable of self-control when confronted with an 
open till but not when confronted with a wife in adultery. The 
law is accordingly much more cautious in admitting "defects 
of the will" than "defect in knowledge" as qualifying or ex- 
cluding criminal responsibility. Further difficulties of proof 
may cause a legal system to limit its inquiry into the agent's 
"subjective condition" by asking what a "reasonable man" 
would in the circumstances have known or foreseen, or by 
asking whether "a reasonable man" in the circimistances 
would have been deprived (say, by provocation) of self- 
control; and the system may then impute to the agent such 
knowledge or foresight or control.' 

' This view is often defended by the assertion that the mind is an "inte- 
grated whole," that if the capacity for self-control is absent, knowledge must 
also be absent. See Hall, op. cit., p. 524: "Diseased volition does not exist 
apart from diseased intelligence"; also reference to the "integration theory," 
chap. xiv. 

* English judges have taken different sides on the issue whether a man can 
be said to have "lost self-control," and kiUed another while in that condition, 
if he knew what he was doing and killed his victim intentionally. See Holmes 
V. D.P.P. (1946) A.C. 597 (Lord Simon) and A.G. for Ceylon v. Kumaras- 
Inghege v. Don John Perera (1953) A.C. 200 (Lord Goddard). 

^ But see for a defense of the "reasonable man" test (in cases of alleged 
provocation) Royal Commission on Capital Punishment, pp. 51-56 (S§ 
139-145). This defense is not confined to the difficulties of proof. 

100 / Determinism and Freedom 

For these practical reasons no simple identification of the 
necessary mental subjective elements in responsibility, with 
the fuU list of excusing conditions, can be made; and in all 
systems far greater prominence is given to the more easily 
provable elements of volitional control of muscular movement 
and knowledge of circumstances or consequences than to the 
other more elusive elements. 

Hence it is true that legal recognition of the importance of 
excusing conditions is never unqualified; the law, like every 
other human institution, has to compromise with other values 
besides whatever value is incorporated in the recognition of 
some conditions as excusing. Sometimes, of course, it is not 
clear, when "strict liability" is imposed, what value (social 
welfare?) is triumphant, and there has consequently been 
much criticism of this as an odious and useless departure from 
proper principles of liability. 

Modern systems of law are however also concerned with 
most of the conditions we have listed as excusing conditions 
in another way. Besides the criminal law that requires men 
to do or abstain from certain actions whether they wish to or 
not, all legal systems contain rules of a different type that 
provide legal facilities whereby individuals can give effect to 
their wishes by entering into certain transactions that alter 
their own and/ or others' legal position (rights, duties, status, 
etc.). Examples of these civil transactions (acts in the law, 
Rechtgeschdfte) are wills, contracts, gifts, marriage. If a legal 
system did not provide facilities allowing individuals to give 
legal effect to their choices in such areas of conduct, it would 
faU to make one of the law's most distinctive and valuable 
contributions to social life. But here too most of the mental 
conditions we have mentioned are recognized by the law as 
important not primarily as excusing conditions but as invali- 
dating conditions. Thus a will, a gift, a marriage, and (subject 
to many complex exceptions) a contract may be invalid if 
the party concerned was insane, mistaken about the legal 
character of the transaction or some "essential" term of it, or 
if he was subject to duress, coercion, or the undue influence 
of other persons. These are the obvious analogues of mistake, 
accident, coercion, duress, insanity, admitted by criminal law 
as excusing conditions. Analogously, the recognition of such 
conditions as invalidating civil transactions is qualified or 
limited by other principles. Those who enter in good faith into 
bilateral transactions of the kind mentionea with persons who 
appear normal (i.e., not subject to any of the relevant invali- 

Legal Responsibility and Excuses / 101 

dating conditions) must be protected, as must third parties who 
may have purchased interests originating from a transaction 
that on the face of it seemed normal. Hence a technique has 
been introduced to safeguard such persons. This includes 
principles precluding, say, a party who has entered into a 
transaction by some mistake from making this the basis of 
his defense against one who honestly took his words at face 
value and justifiably relied on them; there are also distinctions 
between transactions wholly invalidated ad initio (void) and 
those that are valid until denounced (voidable) to protect 
those who have relied on the transaction's normal form. 


The similarity between the law's insistence on certain 
mental elements for both criminal responsibility and the valid- 
ity of acts in the law is clear. Why, then, do we value a system 
of social control that takes mental condition into account? Let 
us start with criminal law and its excusing conditions. What 
is so precious in its attention to these, and what would be lost 
if it gave this up? What precisely is the ground of our dis- 
satisfaction with "strict liability" in criminal law? To these 
fundamental questions, there still are, curiously enough, many 
quite discordant answers, and I propose to consider two of 
them before suggesting an answer that would stress the anal- 
ogy with civil transactions. 

The first general answer takes this form. It is said that the 
importance of excusing conditions in criminal responsibility is 
derivative, and it derives from the more fundamental require- 
ment that for criminal responsibility there must be "moral 
culpability," which would not exist where the excusing condi- 
tions are present. On this view the maxim actus non est reus 
nisi mens sit rea means a morally evil mind. Certainly traces 
of this view are to be found in scattered observations of Eng- 
lish and American judges — in phrases such as "an evil mind 
with regard to that which he is doing," "a bad mind," "there 
must be an act done not merely unguardedly or accidentally, 
without an evil mind."^ Some of these well-known formula- 
tions were perhaps careless statements of the quite different 
principle that mens rea is an intention to commit an act that 
is wrong in the sense of legally forbidden. But the same view 
has been reasserted in general terms in England by Lord 
Justice Denning: "In order that an act should be punishable it 

•Lord Esher in hee v. Dangar (1892) 2 Q.B. 337. 

102 / Determinism and Freedom 

must be morally blameworthy, it must be a sin."^ Most Eng- 
lish lawyers would however now agree with Sir James Fitz- 
James Stephen that the expression mens rea is unfortunate, 
though too firmly established to be expelled, just because it 
misleadingly suggests that in general moral culpability is es- 
sential to a crime, and they would assent to the criticism ex- 
pressed by a later judge that "the true translation of mens rea 
is an intention to do the act which is made penal by statute or 
common law."^ Yet, in spite of this, the view has been urged 
by a distinguished American contemporary writer on criminal 
law, Professor Jerome Hall, in his important and illuminating 
Principles of Criminal Law, that moral culpability is the basis 
of responsibility in crime. Again and again in Chapters V and 
VI of his book Professor Hall asserts that, though the good- 
ness or badness of the motive with which a crime is com- 
mitted may not be relevant, the general principle of liability, 
except of course where liability is unfortunately "strict" and 
so any mental element must be disregarded, is the "intentional 
or reckless doing of a morally wrong act."^ This is declared to 
be the essential meaning of mens rea: "though mens rea differs 
in different crimes there is one common essential element, 
namely, the voluntary doing of a morally wrong act forbidden 
by the Iaw."^° On this view the law inquires into the mind in 
criminal cases in order to secure that no one shall be punished 
in the absence of the basic condition of moral culpability. For 
it is just only to "punish those who have intentionally com- 
mitted moral wrongs proscribed by law."^^ 

Now, if this theory were merely a theory as to what the 
criminal law of a good society should be, it would not be pos- 
sible to refute it, for it represents a moral preference: namely 
that legal punishment should be administered only where a 
"morally wrong" act has been done — though I think such 
plausibility as it would have even as an ideal is due to a con- 
fusion. But of com^e Professor Hall's doctrine does not fit any 
actual system of criminal law because in every such system 
there are necessarily many actions (quite apart from the cases 
of "strict liability") that if voluntarily done are criminally 

T Denning, The Changing Law (London: Stevens, 1953), p. 12. 

»Allard v. Selfrtdgc (1925) 1 K.B. 137. (Shearman.) This is quoted by 
Glanville Williams in The Criminal Law (London: Stevens, 1953), p. 29, note 
3, where the author comments that the judge should have added "reckless* 

» Hall, op. ctt., p. 166. 

i» Ibid., p. 167. 

" Ibid., p. 149. 

Legal Responsibility and Excuses / 103 

punishable, although our moral code may be either silent as 
to their moral quality, or divided. Very many offenses are 
created by legislation designed to give effect to a particular 
economic scheme (e.g., a state monopoly of road or rail trans- 
port), the utility or moral character of which may be genu- 
inely in dispute. An offender against such legislation can 
hardly be said to be morally guilty or to have intentionally 
committed a moral wrong, still less "a sin" proscribed by 
law;i2 yet jf jjg ^^s broken such laws "voluntarily" (to use 
Professor Hall's expression), which in practice means that he 
was not in any of the excusing conditions, the requu-ements of 
justice are surely satisfied. Doubts about the justice of the pun- 
ishment would begin only if he were punished even though he 
was at the time of the action in one of the excusing condi- 
tions; for what is essential is that the offender, if he is to be 
fairly punished, must have acted "voluntarily," and not that 
he must have committed some moral offense. In addition to 
such requirements of justice in the individual case, there is 
of course, as we shall see, a different type of requirement as 
to the general character of the laws. 

It is important to see what has led Professor Hall and others 
to the conclusion that the basis of criminal responsibility must 
be moral culpability ("the voluntary doing of a morally wrong 
act"), for latent in this position, I think, is a false dilemma. 
The false dilemma is that criminal liability must either be 
"strict" — that is, based on nothing more than the outward 
conduct of the accused — or must be based on moral culpabil- 
ity. On this view there is no third alternative and so there can 
be no reason for inquiring into the state of mind of the ac- 
cused — "inner facts," as Professor Hall terms them — except 
for the purpose of establishing moral guilt. To be understood 
all theories should be examined in the context of argument in 
which they are advanced, and it is important to notice that 
Professor Hall's doctrine was developed mainly by way of 
criticism of the so-called objective theory of liability, which 
was developed, though not very consistently, by Chief Justice 
Holmes in his famous essays on common law.^^ Holmes as- 

" "The criminal quality of an act cannot be discovered by intuition: nor 
can it be discovered by any standard but one. Is the act prohibited with penal 
consequences? Morality and criminality are far from coextensive nor is the 
sphere of criminality part of a more exclusive field covered by morality unless 
morals necessarily disapproves of the acts prohibited by the state, in which 
case the argument moves in a circle." Lord Atkin, Proprietory Articles Trade 
Association v. A.G. for Canada (1931) A.C. 324. 

1* Holmes, The Common Law, Lecture II, "The Criminal Law." 

104 / Determinum and Freedom 

serted that the law did not consider, and need not consider, in 
administering punishment what in fact the accused intended, 
but that it imputed to him the intention that an "ordinary 
man," equipped with ordinary knowledge, would be taken to 
have had in acting as the accused did. Holmes in advocating 
this theory of "objective liability" used the phrase "inner 
facts" and frequently stressed that mens rea, in the sense of 
the actual wickedness of the party, was unnecessary. So he 
often identified "mental facts" with moral guilt and also iden- 
tified the notion of an objective standard of liability with the re- 
jection of moral culpability as a basis of liability. This termi- 
nology was pregnant with confusion. It fatally suggests that 
there are only two alternatives: to consider the mental condi- 
tion of the accused only to find moral culpability or not to 
consider it at all. But we are not impaled on the horns of any 
such dilemma: there are independent reasons, apart from the 
question of moral guilt, why a legal system should require a 
voluntary action as a condition of responsibility. These rea- 
sons I shall develop in a moment and merely summarize here 
by saying that the principle ( 1 ) that it is unfair and unjust to 
punish those who have not "voluntarily" broken the law is a 
moral principle quite distinct from the assertion (2) that it is 
wrong to punish those who have not "voluntarily committed a 
moral viTong proscribed by law." 

The confusion that suggests the false dilemma — either "ob- 
jective" standards (strict liability) or liability based on the 
"inner fact" of moral guilt — is, I think, this. We would all 
agree that unless a legal system was as a whole morally de- 
fensible, so that its existence was better than the chaos of its 
collapse, and more good than evil was secured by maintaining 
and enforcing laws in general, these laws should not be en- 
forced, and no one should be punished for breaking them. It 
seems therefore to follow, but does not, that we should not 
punish anyone unless in breaking the law he has done some- 
thing morally wrong; for it looks as if the mere fact that a 
law has been voluntarily broken were not enough to justify 
punishment; the extra element required is "moral culpability," 
at least in the sense that we should have done something mor- 
ally wrong. What we need to escape confusion here is a dis- 
tinction between two sets of questions. The first is a general 
question about the moral value of the laws: Will enforcing 
them produce more good than evil? If they do, then it is mor- 
ally permissible to enforce them by punishing those who have 
broken them, unless in any given case there is some "excuse." 

Legal Responsibility and Excuses / 105 

The second is a particular question concerning individual 
cases: Is it right or just to punish this particular person? Is he 
to be excused on account of his mental condition because it 
would be unjust — in view of his lack of knowledge or control 
— to punish him? The first, general question with regard to 
each law is a question for the legislature; the second, arising 
in particular cases, is for the judge. And the question of re- 
sponsibility arises only at the judicial stage. One necessary 
condition of the just application of a punishment is normally 
expressed by saying that the agent "could have helped" doing 
what he did, and hence the need to inquire into the "iimer 
facts" is dictated not by the moral principle that only the do- 
ing of an immoral act may be legally punished, but by the 
moral principle that no one should be punished who could 
not help doing what he did. This is a necessary condition (un- 
less strict liability is admitted) for the moral propriety of legal 
punishment and no doubt also for moral censure; in this 
respect law and morals are similar. But this similarity as to 
the one essential condition that there must be a "voluntary" 
action if legal punishment or moral censure is to be morally 
permissible does not mean that legal punishment is morally 
permissible only where the agent has done something morally 
wrong. I think that the use of the word "fault" in juristic dis- 
cussion to designate the requirement that liability be excluded 
by excusing conditions may have blurred the important dis- 
tinction between the assertions that (1) it is morally permis- 
sible to punish only voluntary actions and (2) it is morally 
permissible to punish only voluntary commission of a moral 


Let me now turn to a second explanation of the laws con- 
cerned with the "inner facts" of mental life as a condition of 
responsibility. This is a Benthamite theory that I shall name 
the "economy of threats" and is the contention that the re- 
quired conditions of responsibility — e.g., that the agent knew 
what he was doing, was not subject to gross coercion or du- 
ress, was not mad or a small child — are simply the conditions 
that must be satisfied if the threat to punish announced by the 
criminal law is to have any effect and if the system is to be 
efficient in securing the maintenance of law at the least cost in 
pain. This theory is stated most clearly by Bentham; it is also 
to be found in Austin and in the report of the great Criminal 
Law Commission of 1833 of which he was a member. In a 

106 / Determinism and Freedom 

refined form it is implicit in many contemporary attempted 
"dissolutions" of the problem of free will. Many accept this 
view as a common-sense utilitarian explanation of the impor- 
tance that we attribute to excusing conditions. It appeals most 
to the utilitarian and to the determinist, and it is interesting to 
find that Professor Glanville Williams in his recent admirable 
work on "The General Principles of Criminal Law,"i* when 
he wished to explain the exemption of the insane from legal 
responsibility compatibly with "determinism," did so by refer- 
ence to this theory. 

Yet the doctrine is an incoherent one at certain points, I 
think, and a departure from, rather than an elucidation of, the 
moral insistence that criminal liability should generally be 
conditional on the absence of excusing conditions. Bentham's 
best statement of the theory is in Chapter XIII of his Princi- 
ples of Morals and Legislation: "Cases in Which Punishment 
Must be Inefficacious." The cases he lists, besides those where 
the law is made ex post facto or not adequately promulgated, 
fall into two main classes. The first class consists of cases in 
which the penal threat of punishment could not prevent a 
person from performing an action forbidden by the law or 
any action of the same sort; these are the cases of infancy and 
insanity in which the agent, according to Bentham, has not 
the "state or disposition of mind on which the prospect of evils 
so distant as those which are held forth by the law" has the 
effect of influencing his conduct. The second class consists of 
cases in which the law's threat could not have had any effect 
on the agent in relation to the particular act committed be- 
cause of his lack of knowledge or control. What is wrong in 
punishing a man under both these types of mental conditions 
is that the punishment is wasteful; suffering is caused to the 
accused who is punished in circumstances where it could do 
no good. 

In discussing the defense of insanity Professor Glanville 
Williams applies this theory in a way that brings out its con- 
sistency not only with a wholly utilitarian outlook on punish- 
ment but with determinism. 

For mankind in the mass it is impossible to tell whom the 
threat of punishment will restrain and whom it will not; for 
most it will succeed, for some it will fail. And the punishment 
must then be applied to those criminals in order to maintain the 
threat to persons generally. Mentally deranged persons, how- 

1* Williams, op. cit., pp. 346-47. 

Legal Responsibility and Excuses / 107 

ever, can be separated from the mass by scientific tests, and 
being a defined class their segregation from punishment does not 
impair the eflBcacy of the sanction for people generally.^* 

The point made here is that, if, for example, the mentally de- 
ranged (scientifically tested) are exempted, criminals will not 
be able to exploit this exemption to free themselves from 
liability, since they cannot bring themselves within its scope 
and so will not feel free to commit crimes with impunity. This 
is said in order to justify the exemption of the insane con- 
sistently with the "tenet" of determinism, in spite of the fact 
that from a determinist viewpoint 

every impulse if not in fact resisted was in those circumstances 
irresistible. A so-called irresistible impulse is simply one in 
which the desire to perform a particular act is not influenced by 
other factors like the threat of punishment. ... on this definition 
every crime is the result of an irresistible impulse. 

This theory is designed not merely to fit a utilitarian theory 
of punishment, but also the view that it is always false, if not 
senseless, to say that a criminal could have helped doing what 
he did. So on this theory when we inquire into the mental 
state of the accused, we do not do so to answer the question, 
Could he help it? Nor of course to answer the question. Could 
the threat of punishment have been effective in his case? — for 
we know that it was not. The theory presents us with a far 
simpler conceptual scheme for dealing with the whole matter, 
since it does not involve the seemingly counterfactual specu- 
lation regarding what the accused "could have done." On this 
theory we inquire into the state of mind of the accused simply 
to find out whether he belongs to a defined class of persons 
whose exemption from punishment, if allowed, will not 
weaken the effect on others of the general threat of punish- 
ment made by the law. So there is no question of its being 
unjust or unfair to punish a particular criminal or to exempt 
him from punishment. Once the crime has been committed 
the decision to punish or not has nothing to do with any moral 
claim or right of the criminal to have the features of his case 
considered, but only with the causal efficacy of his punishment 
on others. On this view the rationale of excuses is not (to put 
it shortly) that the accused should in view of his mental con- 
dition be excused whatever the effect of this on others, but 
rather the mere fact that excusing him will not harm society 

16 Williams, loc. clt. 

108 / Determinism and Freedom 

by reducing the efficacy of the law's threats for others. So 
the relevance of the criminal's mental condition is purely the 
question of the effect on others of his punishment or exemp- 
tion from it. 

This is certainly paradoxical enough. It seems to destroy 
the entire notion that in punishing we must be just to the 
particular criminal in front of us and that the purpose of 
excusing conditions is to protect him from society's claim. 
But apart from paradox the doctrine that we consider the 
state of a man's mind only to see if punishment is required in 
order to maintain the efficacy of threats for others is vitiated 
by a non sequitur. Before a man does a criminal action we 
may know that he is in such a condition that the threats can- 
not operate on him, either because of some temporary con- 
dition or because of a disease; but it does not follow — because 
the threat of punishment in his case, and in the case of others 
like him, is useless — that his punishment in the sense of the 
official administration of penalties will also be unnecessary 
to maintain the efficacy of threats for others at its highest. It 
may very well be that, if the law contained no explicit exemp- 
tions from responsibility on the score of ignorance, accident, 
mistake, or insanity, many people who now take a chance in 
the hope that they will bring themselves, if discovered, within 
these exempting provisions would in fact be deterred. It is 
indeed a perfectly familiar fact that pleas of loss of con- 
sciousness or other abnormal mental states, or of the existence 
of some other excusing condition, are frequently and some- 
times successfully advanced where there is no real basis for 
them, for the difficulties of disproof are often considerable. 
The uselessness of a threat against a given individual or class 
does not entail that the punishment of that individual or class 
cannot be required to maintain in the highest degree the ef- 
ficacy of threats for others. It may in fact be the case that to 
make liability to punishment dependent on the absence of ex- 
cusing conditions is the most efficient way of maintaining the 
laws with the least cost in pain. But it is not obviously or 
necessarily the case. 

It is clear, I think, that if we were to base our views of 
criminal resp)Onsibility on the doctrine of the economy of 
threats, we should misrepresent altogether the character of 
our moral preference for a legal system that requires mental 
conditions of responsibility over a system of total strict liabil- 
ity or entirely different methods of social control such as 
hypnosis, propaganda, or conditioning. 

Legal Responsibility and Excuses / 109 

(^To make this intelligible we must cease to regard the law as 
merely a causal factor in human behavior differing from 
others only in the fact that it produces its effect through the 
medium of the mind; for it is clear that we look on excusing 
conditions as something that protects the individual against 
the claims of the rest of society. Recognition of their excusing 
force may lead to a lower, not a higher, level of efficacy of 
threats; yet — and this is the point — we could not regard that 
as sufficient ground for abandoning this protection of the 
individual; or if we did, it would be with the recognition that 
we had sacrificed one principle to another; for more is at 
stake than the single principle of maintaining the laws at their 
most efficacious level. We must cease, therefore, to regard the 
law simply as a system of stimuli goading the individual by its 
threats into conformity. Instead I shall suggest a mercantile 
analogy. Consider the law not as a system of stimuli but as 
what might be termed a choosing system in which individuals 
can find out, in general terms at least, the costs they have to 
pay if they act in certain ways. This done, let us ask what 
value this system would have in social life and why we should 
regret its absence. I do not of course mean to suggest that it 
is a matter of indifference whether we obey the law or break 
it and pay the penalty. Punishment is different from a mere 
"tax on a course of conduct." What I do mean is that the 
conception of the law simply as goading individuals into de- 
sired courses of behavior is inadequate and misleading; what 
a legal system that makes liability generally depend on ex- 
cusing conditions does is to guide individuals' choices as to 
behavior by presenting them with reasons for exercising 
choice in the direction of obedience, but leaving them to 

It is at this point that I would stress the analogy between 
the mental conditions that excuse from criminal responsibility 
and the mental conditions that are regarded as invalidating 
civil transactions such as wills, gifts, contracts, marriages, and 
the like. The latter institutions provide individuals with two 
inestimable advantages in relation to those areas of conduct 
they cover. These are (1) the advantage to the individual of 
determining by his choice what the future shall be and (2) 
the advantage of being able to predict what -the future wUl 
be. For these institutions enable the individual ( 1 ) to bring 
into operation the coercive forces of the law so that those 
legal arrangements he has chosen shall be carried into effect 
and (2) to plan the rest of his life with a certainty or at least 

110 / Determinism and Freedom 

the confidence (in a legal system that is working normally) 
that the arrangements he has made will in fact be carried out. 
By these devices the individual's choice is brought into the 
legal system and allowed to determine its future operations in 
certain areas, thereby giving him a type of indirect coercive 
control over, and a power to foresee the development of, 
official life. This he would not have "naturally"; that is, apart 
from these legal institutions. 

In brief, the function of these institutions of private law is 
to render effective the individual's preferences in certain 
areas. It is therefore clear why in this sphere the law treats 
the mental factors of, say, mistake, ignorance of the nature 
of the transaction, coercion, undue influence, or insanity as 
invalidating such civil transactions. For a transaction entered 
into under such conditions will not represent a real choice: 
the individual might have chosen one course of events and 
by the transaction procured another (cases of mistake, ig- 
norance, etc.), or he might have chosen to enter the trans- 
action without coolly and calmly thinking out what he wanted 
(undue influence), or he might have been subjected to the 
threats of another who had imposed his choices (coercion). 

To see the value of such institutions in rendering effective 
the individual's considered and informed choices as to what 
on the whole shall happen, we have but to conduct the experi- 
ment of imagining their absence: a system where no mental 
conditions would be recognized as invalidating such trans- 
actions and the consequent loss of control over the future 
that the individual would suffer. That such institutions do 
render individual choices effective and increase the powers of 
individuals to predict the course of events is simply a matter 
of empirical fact, and no form of "determinism," of course, 
can show this to be false or illusory. If a man makes a will 
to which the law gives effect after his death, this is not, of 
course, merely a case of post hoc: we have enough empirical 
evidence to show that this was an instance of a regularity 
sufficient to have enabled us to predict the outcome with rea- 
sonable probability, at least in some cases, and to justify us, 
therefore, in interpreting this outcome as a consequence of 
making the will. There is no reason why we should not de- 
scribe the situation as one where the testator caused the out- 
come of the distribution made. Of course the testator's choice 
in his example is only one prominent member of a complex 
set of conditions, of which all the other members were as 
necessary for the production of the outcome as his choice. 

Legal Responsibility and Excuses / 111 

Science may indeed show ( 1 ) that this set of conditions also 
includes conditions of which we are at the present moment 
quite ignorant and (2) that the testator's choice itself was the 
outcome of some set of jointly sufficient conditions of which 
we have no present knowledge. Yet neither of these two sup- 
positions, even if they were verified, would make it false to 
say that the individual's choice did determine the results, or 
make illusory the satisfaction got (a) from the knowledge that 
this kind of thing is possible, (b) from the exercise of such 
choice. And if determinism does not entail that satisfactions 
(o) or (b) are obtainable, I for one do not understand how it 
could affect the wisdom, justice, rationality, or moraUty of the 
system we are considering. 

If with this in mind we turn back to criminal law and its 
excusing conditions, we can regard their function as a mech- 
anism for similarly maximizing within the framework of 
coercive criminal law the efficacy of the individual's informed 
and considered choice in determining the future and also his 
power to predict that future. We must start, of course, with 
the need for criminal law and its sanctions as at least some 
check on behavior that threatens society. This implies a belief 
that the criminal law's threats actually do diminish the fre- 
quency of antisocial behavior, and no doubt this belief may 
be said to be based on inadequate evidence. However, we 
must clearly take it as our starting point: if this belief is 
wrong, it is so because of lack of empirical evidence and not 
because it contradicts any form of determinism. Then we can 
see that by attaching excusing conditions to criminal responsi- 
bility, we provide each individual with something he would 
not have if we made the system of criminal law operate on 
a basis of total "strict liability." First, we maximize the in- 
dividual's power at any time to predict the likelihood that the 
sanctions of the criminal law will be applied to him. Secondly, 
we introduce the individual's choice as one of the operative 
factors determining whether or not these sanctions shall be 
applied to him. He can weigh the cost to him of obeying the 
law — and of sacrificing some satisfaction in order to obey — 
against obtaining that satisfaction at the cost of paying "the 
penalty." Thirdly, by adopting this system of attaching ex- 
cusing conditions we provide that, if the sanctions of the 
criminal law are applied, the pains of punishment will for 
each individual represent the price of some satisfaction ob- 
tained from breach of law. Ths, of course, can sound like a 
very cold, if not immoral, attitude toward the criminal law. 

112 / Determinism and Freedom 

general obedience to which we regard as an essential part of 
a decent social order. But this attitude seems repellent only 
if we assume that all criminal laws are ones whose operation 
we approve. To be realistic we must also think of bad and 
repressive criminal laws; in South Africa, Nazi Germany, 
Soviet Russia, and no doubt elsewhere, we might be thankful 
to have their badness mitigated by the fact that they fall only 
on those who have obtained a satisfaction from knowingly do- 
ing what they forbid. 

Again, the value of these three factors can be realized if 
we conduct the Gedankenexperiment of imagining criminal 
law operating without excusing conditions. First, our power of 
predicting what will happen to us wiU be immeasurably di- 
minished; the likelihood that I shall choose to do the for- 
bidden act (e.g., strike someone) and so incur the sanctions 
of the criminal law may not be very easy to calculate even 
under our system: as a basis for this prediction we have in- 
deed only the knowledge of our own character and some 
estimate of the temptations life is likely to offer us. But if 
we are also to be liable if we strike someone by accident, by 
mistake, under coercion, etc., the chance that we shall incur 
the sanctions are immeasurably increased. From our knowl- 
edge of the past career of our body considered as a thing, we 
cannot infer much as to the chances of its being brought into 
violent contact with another, and under a system that dis- 
pensed with the excusing condition of, say, accident (implying 
lack of intention), a collision alone would land us in jail. 
Secondly, our choice would condition what befalls us to a 
lesser extent. Thirdly, we should suffer sanctions without 
having obtained any satisfaction. Again, no form of determin- 
ism that I, at least, can construct can throw any doubt on, or 
show to be illusory, the real satisfaction that a system of 
criminal law incorporating excusing conditions provides for 
individuals in maximizing the effect of their choices within the 
framework of coercive law. The choices remain choices, the 
satisfactions remain satisfactions, and the consequences of 
choices remain the consequences of choices even if choices 
are determined and other "determinants" besides our choices 
condition the satisfaction arising from their being rendered 
effective in this way by the structure of the criminal law. 

It is now important to contrast this view of excusing con- 
ditions with the Benthamite explanation I discussed in Part 
III of this paper. On that view excusing conditions were 
treated as conditions imder which the law's threat could op- 

Legal ResponsibUity and Excuses / 113 

erate with maximum efficacy. They were recognized not be- 
cause they ensured justice to individuals considered separately, 
but because sanctions administered under those conditions 
were believed more effective and economical of pain in secur- 
ing the general conformity to law. If these beliefs as to the 
efficacy of excusing conditions could be shown false, then all 
reasons for recognizing them as conditions of criminal re- 
sponsibility would disappear. On the present view, which I 
advocate, excusing conditions are accepted as independent of 
the efficacy of the system of threats. Instead it is conceded 
that recognition of these conditions may, and probably does, 
diminish that efficacy by increasing the number of conditions 
for criminal liability and hence giving opportunities for pre- 
tense on the part of criminals, or mistakes on the part of 

On this view excusing conditions are accepted as something 
that may conflict with the social utility of the law's threats; 
they are regarded as of moral importance because they pro- 
vide for all individuals alike the satisfactions of a costing 
system. Recognition of excusing conditions is therefore seen 
as a matter of protection of the individual against the claims 
of society for the highest measure of protection from crime 
that can be obtained from a system of threats. In this way 
the criminal law respects the claims of the individual as such, 
or at least as a choosing being, and distributes its coercive 
sanctions in a way that reflects this respect for the individual. 
This surely is very central in the notion of justice and is one, 
though no doubt only one, among the many strands of prin- 
ciple that I think lie at the root of the preference for legal 
institutions conditioning liability by reference to excusing 

I cannot, of course, by unearthing this principle claim to 
have solved everyone's perplexities. In particular, I do not 
know what to say to a critic who urges that I have shown only 
that the system in which excusing conditions are recognized 
protects the individual better against the claims of society 
than one in which no recognition is accorded to these factors. 
This seems to me to be enough; yet I cannot satisfy his com- 
plaint, if he makes it, that I have not shown that we are 
justified in punishing anyone ever, at all, under any condi- 
tions. He may say that even the criminal who has committed 
his crime in the most deliberate and calculating way and has 
shown himself throughout his life competent in maximizing 
what he thinks his own interests will be little comforted when 

114 / Determinism and Freedom 

he is caught and punished for some major crime. At that stage 
he will get little satisfaction if it is pointed out to him ( 1 ) that 
he has obtained some satisfaction from his crime, (2) that 
he knew that it was likely he would be punished and that he 
had decided to pay for his satisfaction by exposing himself to 
this risk, and (3) that the system imder which he is punished 
is not one of strict liability, is not one under which a man 
who accidentally did what he did would also have suffered 
the penalties of the law. 

I will add four observations ex abundante cautela. 

1. The elucidation of the moral importance of the mental 
element in responsibihty, and the moral odium of strict lia- 
bility that I have indicated, must not be mistaken for a psy- 
chological theory of motivation. It does not answer the 
question, Why do people obey the law? It does not assert that 
they obey only because they choose to obey rather than pay 
the cost. Instead, my theory answers the question, Why should 
we have a law with just these features? Human beings in the 
main do what the law requires without first choosing between 
the advantage and the cost of disobeying, and when they obey 
it is not usually from fear of the sanction. For most the 
sanction is important not because it inspires them with fear 
but because it offers a guarantee that the antisocial minority 
who would not otherwise obey will be coerced into obedience 
by fear. To obey without this assurance might, as Hobbes saw, 
be very foolish: it would be to risk going to the wall. How- 
ever, the fact that only a few people, as things are, consider 
the question, Shall I /obey or pay? does not in the least mean 
that the standing pdssibility of asking this question is unim- 
portant: for it secures just those values for the individual that 
I have mentioned. 

2. I must of course confront the objection the Marxist 
might make, that the excusing conditions, or indeed mutatis 
mutandis the invalidating conditions, of civil transactions are 
of no use to many individuals in society whose economic or 
social position is such that the difference between a law of 
strict liability and a law that recognizes excusing conditions is 
of no importance. 

It is quite true that the fact that criminal law recognizes 
excusing mental conditions may be of no importance to a 
person whose economic condition is such that he cannot 
profit from the difference between a law against theft that is 

Legal Responsibility and Excuses / 115 

strict and one that incorporates excusing conditions. If starva- 
tion "forces" him to steal, the values the system respects and 
incorporates in excusing conditions are nothing to him. This 
is of course similar to the claim often made that the freedom 
that a political democracy of the Western type offers to its 
subjects is merely formal freedom, not real freedom, and 
leaves one free to starve. I regard this as a confusing way of 
putting what may be true under certain conditions: namely, 
that the freedoms the law offers may be valueless as playing 
no part in the happiness of persons who are too poor or weak 
to take advantage of them. The admission that the excusing 
conditions may be of no value to those who are below a 
minimum level of economic prosperity may mean, of course, 
that we should incorporate as a further excusing condition the 
pressure of gross forms of economic necessity. This point, 
though valid, does not seem to me to throw doubt on the 
principle lying behind such excusing conditions as we do 
recognize at present, nor to destroy their genuine value for 
those who are above the minimum level of economic pros- 
perity, for a difference between a system of strict liability and 
our present system plays a part in their happiness. 

3. The principle by reference to which I have explained the 
moral importance of excusing conditions may help clarify an 
old dispute, apt to spring up between lawyers on the one hand 
and doctors and scientists on the other, about the moral basis 
of punishment. 

From Plato to the present day there has been a recurrent 
insistence that if we were rational we would always look on 
crime as a disease and address ourselves to its cure. We would 
do this not only where a crime has actually been committed 
but where we find well-marked evidence that it will be. We 
would take the individual and treat him as a patient before 
the deed was done. Plato, ^^ it will be remembered, thought it 
superstitious to look back and go into questions of responsi- 
bility or the previous history of a crime except when it might 
throw light on what was needed to cure the criminal. 

Carried to its extreme, this doctrine is the program of 
Erewhon where those with criminal tendencies were sent by 
doctors for indefinite periods of cure; punishment was dis- 
placed by a concept of social hygiene. It is, I think, of some 
importance to realize why we should object to this point of 
view, for both those who defend it and those who attack it 

i» Plato, Protagoras, 324; Laws 861, 865. 

116 / Determinism and Freedom 

often assume that the only possible consistent alternative to 
Erewhon is a theory of punishment under which it is justified 
simply as a return for the moral evil attributable to the ac- 
cused. Those opposed to the Erewhonian program are apt to 
object that it disregards moral guilt as a necessary condition 
of a just punishment and thus leads to a condition in which 
any person may be sacrificed to the welfare of society. Those 
who defend an Erewhonian view think that their opponents' 
objection must entail adherence to the form of retributive 
punishment that regards punishment as a justified return for 
the moral evil in the criminal's action. 

Both sides, I think, make a common mistake: there is a 
reason for making punishment conditional on the commission 
of crime and respecting excusing conditions, which are quite 
independent of the form of retributive theory that is often 
urged as the only alternative to Erewhon. Even if we regard 
the over-all purpose of punishment as that of protecting 
society by deterring persons from committing crimes and in- 
sist that the penalties we inflict be adapted to this end, we can 
in perfect consistency and with good reason insist that these 
punishments be applied only to those who have broken a law 
and to whom no excusing conditions apply. For this system 
will provide a measure of protection to individuals and will 
maximize their powers of prediction and the efficacy of their 
choices in the way that I have mentioned. To see this we have 
only to ask ourselves what in terms of these values we should 
lose (however much else we might gain) if social hygiene 
and a system of compulsory treatment for those with detecta- 
ble criminal tendencies were throughout substituted for our 
system of punishment modified by excusing conditions. Surely 
the realization of what would be lost, and not a retributive 
theory of punishment, is all that is required as a reason for 
refusing to make the descent into Erewhon. 

4. Finally, what I have written concerns only legal re- 
sponsibility and the rationale of excuses in a legal system in 
which there are organized, coercive sanctions. I do not think 
the same arguments can be used to defend moral responsi- 
bility from the determinist, if it is in any danger from that 

Chapter 2 

Paul Edwards, New York University 

In ffls ESSAY "The Dilemma of Determinism," William James 
makes a distinction that will serve as a point of departure for 
my remarks. He there distinguishes between the philosophers 
he calls "hard" determinists and those he labels "soft" deter- 
minists. The former, the hard determinists, James tells us, 
"did not shrink from such words as fatality, bondage of the 
will, necessitation and the like." He quotes a famous stanza 
from Omar Khayyam as representing this kind of determin- 

With earth's first clay they did the last man knead. 
And there of the last harvest sowed the seed. 
And the first morning of creation wrote 
What the last dawn of reckoning shall read. 

Another of Omar's verses expresses perhaps even better the 
kind of theory that James has here in mind: 

Tis all a checker-board of nights and days, 
Where destiny with men for pieces plays; 
Thither and thither moves, and metes, and slays. 
And one by one back to the closet lays. 

James mentioned no names other than Omar Khayydm. But 
there is little doubt that among the hard determinists he 
would have included Jonathan Edwards, Anthony Collins, 
Holbach, Priestley, Robert Owen, Schopenhauer, Freud, and 
also, if he had come a little earlier, Clarence Darrow. 

James of course rejected both hard and soft determinism, 
but for hard determinism he had a certain respect: the kind of 
respect one sometimes has for an honest, straightforward ad- 
versary. For soft determinism, on the other hand, he had 
nothing but contempt, calling it a "quagmire of evasion." 
"Nowadays," he writes, "we have a soft determinism which 
abhors harsh words, and repudiating fatality, necessity, and 


118 / Determinism and Freedom 

even predetermination, says that its real name is 'freedom.' " 
From his subsequent observations it is clear that he would in- 
clude among the evasionists not only neo-Hegelians like 
Green and Bradley but also Hobbes and Hume and Mill; and 
if he were alive today James would undoubtedly include 
Schlick and Ayer and Stevenson and Noel-Smith, not to men- 
tion some of the philosophers present in this room. 

The theory James calls soft determinism, especially the 
Hume-Mill-Schlick variety of it, has been extremely fashion- 
able during the last twenty-five years, while hardly anybody 
can be found today who has anj^hing good to say for hard 
determinism. In opposition to this contemporary trend, I 
should like to strike a blow on behalf of hard determinism in 
my talk today, I shall also try to bring out exactly what is 
really at issue between hard and soft determinism. I think 
the nature of this dispute has frequently been misconceived 
chiefly because many writers, including James, have a very 
inaccurate notion of what is maintained by actual hard deter- 
minists, as distinct from the bogey men they set up in order 
to score an easy victory. 

To begin witih, it is necessary to spell more fully the main 
contentions of the soft determinists. Since it is the dominant 
form of soft determinism at the present time, I shall confine 
myself to the Hume-Mill-Schlick theory. According to this 
theory there is in the first place no contradiction whatsoever 
between determinism and the proposition that human beings 
are sometimes free agents. When we call an action "free" we 
never in any ordinary situation mean that it was uncaused; 
and this emphatically includes the kind of action about which 
we pass moral judgments. By calling an action "free" we mean 
; that the agent was not compelled or constained to perform it. 
Sometimes people act in a certain way because of threats or 
because they have been drugged or because of a posthypnotic 
suggestion or because of an irrational overpowering urge such 
as the one that makes a kleptomaniac steal something he does 
not really need. On such occasions human beings are not free 
agents. But on other occasions they act in certain ways be- 
cause of their own rational desires, because of their own un- 
impeded efforts, because they have chosen to act in these 
ways. On these occasions they are free agents although their 
actions are just as much caused as actions that are not deemed 
free. In distinguishing between free and unfree actions we 
do not try to mark the presence and absence of causes but 
attempt to indicate the kind of causes that are present. 

Hard and Soft Detenmnism / 119 

* Secondly there is no antithesis between determinism and 
moral responsibility. When we judge a person morally respon- 
sible for a certain action, we do indeed presuppose that he 
was a free agent at the time of the action. But the freedom 
presupposed is not the contracausal freedom about which in- 
determinists go into such ecstatic raptures. It is nothing more 
than the freedom already mentioned- — the ability to act ac- 
cording to one's choices or desires. Since determinism is com- 
patible with freedom in this sense, it is also compatible with 
moral responsibility. In other words, the world is after all 
wonderful: we can be determinists and yet go on punishing 
our enemies and owe children, and we can go on blaming our- 
selves, all without a bad intellectual conscience. 

\f Mill, who was probably the greatest moralizer among the 
soft determinists, recognized with particular satisfaction the 
influence or alleged influence of one class of human desires. 
Not^nly, for example, does such lowly desire as my desire to 
get a new car influence my conduct. It is equally true, or so 
at least Mill believed, that my desire to become a more vir- 
tuous person does on occasion influence my actions. By 
suitable training and efforts my desire to change my char- 
acter may in fact bring about the desired changes. If Mill were 
alive today he might point to contemporary psychiatry as an 
illustration of his point. Let us suppose that I have an intense 
desire to become famous, but that I also have an intense de- 
sire to become a happier and more lovable person who, 
among other things, does not greatly care about fame. Let us 
suppose, furthermore, that I know of a therapy that can 
transform fame-seeking and unlovable into lovable and fame- 
indifferent character structures. If, now, I have enough 
money, energy, and courage, and if a few other conditions 
are fulfilled, my desire may actually lead to a major change 
in my character. Since we can, therefore, at least to some 
extent, form our own character, determinism according to. 
Millis_cprapatible not only with judgments of moral responsi-^' 
bility about this or that particular action flowing from an 
unimpeded desire, but also, within limits, with moral judg- 
ments about the character of human beings. 

I think that several of MUl's observations were well worth 
making and that James's verdict on his theory as a "quagmire 
of evasion" is far too derogatory. I think hard determinists 
have occasionally written in such a way as to suggest that 
they deny the causal efficacy of human desires and efforts. 
Thus Holbach wrote: 

120 / Determinism and Freedom 

You will say that I feel free. This is an illusion, which may be 
compared to that of the fly in the fable, who, lighting upon the 
pole of a heavy carriage, applauded himself for directing its 
course. Man, who thinks himself free, is a fly who imagines he 
has power to move the universe, while he is him self unknow- 
ingly carried along by it 

There is also the following passage in Schopenhauer: 

Every man, being what he is and placed in the circumstances 
which for the moment obtain, but which on their part also arise 
by strict necessity, can absolutely never do anything else than 
just what at that moment he does do. Accordingly, the whole 
course of a man's life, in all its incidents great and small, is as 
necessarily predetermined as the course of a clock. 

Voltaire expresses himself in much the same way in the article 
on "Destiny" in the Philosophical Dictionary. 

Everything happens through immutable laws, . . . everj^thing 
is necessary. . . , "There are," some persons say, "some events 
which are necessary and others which are not." It would be very 
comic that one part of the world was arranged, and the other 
were not; that one part of what happens had to happen and that 
another part of what happens did not have to happen. If one 
looks closely at it, one sees that the doctrine contrary to that of 
destiny is absurd; but there are many people destined to reason 
badly; others not to reason at all, others to persecute those who 
reason. . . . 

... I necessarily have the passion for writing this, and you 
have the passion for condemning me; both of us are equally 
fools, equally the toy of destiny. Your nature is to do harm, 
mine is to love truth, and to make it public in spite of you. 

Furthermore there can be little doubt that Hume and Mill 
and Schlick were a great deal clearer about the relation be- 
tween motives and actions than the hard determinists, who 
either conceived it, like Collins, as one of logical necessity or, 
like Priestley and Voltaire and Schopenhauer, as necessarily 
involving coercion or constraint. 

But when all is said and done, there remains a good deal of 
truth in James's charge that soft determinism is an evasion. 
For a careful reading of their works shows that none of the 
hard determinists really denied that human desires, efforts, 
and choices make a difference in the course of events. Any 
remarks to the contrary are at most temporary lapses. This, 
then, is hardly the point at issue. If it is not the point at issue. 

Hard and Soft Determinism / 121 

what is? Let me at this stage imagine a hard determinist re- 
plying to a champion of the Hume-MUl theory: "You are 
right," he would say, "in maintaining that some of our actions 
are caused by our desires and choices. But you do not pursue 
the subject far enough. You arbitrarily stop at the desires and t 
volitions. We must not stop there. We must go on to ask ' 
where they come from; and if determinism is true there can i 
be no doubt about the answer to this question. Ultimately our 
desires and our whole character are derived from our in- 
herited equipment and the environmental influences to which 
we were subjected at the beginning of our lives. It is clear that 
we had no hand in shaping either of these." A hard determin- 
ist could quote a number of eminent supporters. "Our voli- 
tions and our desires," wrote Holbach in his little book Good 
Sense, "are never in our power. You think yourself free, be- 
cause you do what you will; but are you free to will or not to 
will; to desire or not to desire?" And Schopenhauer expressed 
the same thought in the following epigram: "A man can 
surely do what he willsto do, but he cannot determine what 

LeTme turn once more to the topic of character transfor- 
mation by means of psychiatry to bring out this point with 
full force. Let us suppose that both A and B are compulsive 
and suffer intensely from their neuroses. Let us assume that 
there is a therapy that could help them, which could materially 
change their character structure, but that it takes a great deal 
of energy and courage to undertake the treatment. Let us sup- 
pose that A has the necessary energy and courage while B 
lacks it. A undergoes the therapy and changes in the desired 
way. B just gets more and more compulsive and more and 
more miserable. Now, it is true that A helped form his own . 
later character. But his starting point, his desire to change, his'j 
energy and courage, were already there. They may or may not 
have been the result of previous efforts on his own part. But 
there must have been a first effort, and the effort at that time 
was the result of factors that were not of his making. 

The fact that ^ person' s char acter is ultimately the product 
of factors over which he had no control 4s not denied by the 
soft determinists, though many of them don't like to be re- 
minded of it when they are in a moralizing mood. Since the 
hard determinists admit that our desires and choices do on 
occasion influence the course of our lives, there is thus no 
disagreement between the soft and the hard determinists about 
the empurical facts. However, some hard determinists infer 

122 / Determinum and Freedom 

from some of these facts that human beings are never morally 
responsible for their actions. The soft determinists, as already 
stated, do not draw any such inference. In the remainder of 
my paper I shall try to show just what it is that hard determin- 
ists are inferring and why, in my opinion, they are justified in 
their conclusion. 

I shall begin by adopting for my purposes a distinction intro- 
duced by C. A. Campbell in his extremely valuable article "Is 
Free Will a Pseudo-Problem?"^ in which he distinguishes be- 
tween two conceptions of moral responsibility. Different per- 
sons, he says, require different conditions to be fulfilled before 
holding human beings morally responsible for what they do. 
First, there is what Campbell calls the ordinary unreflective 
person, who is rather ignorant and who is not greatly con- 
cerned with the theories of science, philosophy, and religion. 
If the unreflective person is sure that the agent to be judged 
was acting under coercion or constraint, he will not hold him 
responsible. If, however, he is sure that the action was per- 
formed in accordance with the agent's unimpeded rational 
desire, if he is sure that the action would not have taken place 
but for the agent's decision, then the unreflective person will 
consider ascription of moral responsibility justified. The fact 
that the agent did not ultimately make his own character will 
either not occur to him, or else it will not be considered a 
sufficient ground for withholding a judgment of moral 

In addition to such unreflective persons, continues Camp- 
bell, there are others who have reached "a tolerably advanced 
level or reflection." 

Such a person will doubtless be acquainted with the claims 
advanced in some quarters that causal law operates universally; 
or/and with the theories of some philosophies that the universe 
is throughout the expression of a single supreme principle; or/ 
and with the doctrines of some theologians that the world is 
created, sustained and governed by an Omniscient and Omni- 
potent Being. 

Such a person will tend to require the fulfillment of a further 
condition before holding anybody morally responsible. He will 
require not only that the agent was not coerced or constrained 
but also — and this is taken to be an additional condition — that 
he "could have chosen otherwise than he actually did." I 

^Mtnd, 1951. 

Hard and Soft Determinism / 123 

should prefer to put this somewhat differently, but it will not 
affect the main conclusion drawn by Campbell, with which I 
agree. The reflective person, I should prefer to express it, re- 
quires not only that the agent was not coerced; he also re- 
quires that the agent originally chose his own character — the 
character that now displays itself in his choices and desires 
and efforts. Campbell concludes that determinism is indeed 
compatible with judgments of moral responsibility in the un- 
reflective sense, but that it is incompatible with judgments of 
moral responsilsility in the reflective sense. 

Although I do not follow Campbell in rejecting determin- 
ism, I agree basically with his analysis, with one other quali- 
fication. I do not think it is a question of the different senses in 
which the term is used by ignorant and unreflective people, on 
the one hand, and by those who are interested in science, 
religion, and philosophy, on the other. The very same persons, 
whether educated or uneducated, use it in certain contexts in 
the one sense and in other contexts in the other. Practically 
all human beings, no matter how much interested they are in 
science, religion, and philosophy, employ what Campbell calls 
the unreflective conception when they are dominated by vio- 
lent emotions like anger, indignation, or hate, and especially 
when the conduct they are judging has been personally injuri- 
ous to them. On the other hand, a great many people, whether 
they are educated or not, will employ what Campbell calls the 
reflective conception when they are not consumed with hate 
or anger — when they are judging a situation calmly and re- 
flectively and when the fact that the agent did not ultimately 
shape his own character has been vividly brought to their at- 
tention. Clarence Darrow in his celebrated pleas repeatedly 
appealed to the jury on precisely this ground. If any of you, 
he would say, had been reared in an environment like that of 
the accused or had to suffer from his defective heredity, you 
would now be standing in the dock. I cannot refrain at this 
stage from reading a poem written by the hard determinist, 
A. E. Housman, which Darrow recited on such occasions. Its 
title is "The Culprit," and it is the soliloquy of a boy about to 
be hanged. 

The night my father got me 
His mind was not on me; 

He did not plague his fancy 
To muse if I should be 
The son you see. 

124 / Determinum and Freedom 

The day my mother bore me 

She was a fool and glad. 
For all the pain I cost her. 

That she had borne the lad 

That borne she had. 

My mother and my father 

Out of the light they lie; 
The warrant could not find them. 

And here 'tis only I 

Shall hang so high. 

Oh let not man remember 

The soul that God forgot. 
But fetch the county kerchief 

And noose me in the knot. 

And I will rot. 

For so the game is ended 

That should not have begun. 
My father and my mother 

They had a likely son, 

And I have none.2 

Darrow nearly always convinced the jury that the accused 
could not be held morally responsible for his acts; and cer- 
tainly the majority of the jurors were relatively uneducated. 

I have so far merely distinguished between two concepts of 
moral responsibility. I now wish to go a step farther and claim 
that only one of them can be considered, properly speaking, 
a moral concept. This is not an easy point to make clear, but 
I can at least indicate what I mean. We do not normally con- 
sider just any positive or negative feeling a "moral" emotion. 
Nor do we consider just any sentence containing the words 
"good" or "bad" expressions of "moral" judgment. For ex- 
ample, if a man hates a woman because she rejected him, this 
would not be counted as a moral emotion. If, however, he dis- 
approves, say, of Senator McCarthy's libelous speech against 
Adlai Stevenson before the 1952 election because he disap- 
proves of slander in general and not merely because he likes 
Stevenson and dislikes McCarthy, his feeling would be 
counted as moral. A feeling or judgment must in a certain 
sense be "impersonal" before we consider it moral. To this I 

»From The Collected Poems oi A. E. Housman. Copyright, 1922, 1940 by 
Henry Holt and Company, Inc. Copyright, 1950, by Barclays Bank, Ltd. By 
permission of the publishers. 

Hard and Soft Determinism / 125 

would add that it must also be independent of violent emo- 
tions.') Confining myself to judgments, I would say that a 
judgment was "moral" only if it was formulated in a calm and 
reflective mood, or at least if it is supported in a calm and 
reflective state of mind. If this is so, it follows that what 
Campbell calls the reflective sense of "moral responsibiUty" is 
the only one that qualifies as a properly moral use of the term. 
Before I conclude I wish to avoid a certain misunderstand- 
ing of my remarks. From the fact that human beings do not 
ultimately shape their own character, I said, it follows that 
they are never morally responsible. I do not mean that by 
reminding people of the ultimate causes of their character one 
makes them more charitable and less vengeful. Maybe one 
does, but that is not what I mean. I mean "follow" or "imply" 
in the same sense as, or in a sense closely akin to, that in 
which the conclusion of a valid syllogism follows from the 
premises. The effectiveness of Darrow's pleas does not merely 
show, I am arguing, how powerfully he could sway the emo- 
tions of the jurors. His pleas also brought into the open one of 
the conditions the jurors, like others, consider necessary on 
reflection before they hold an agent morally responsible. Or 
perhaps I should say that Darrow committed the jurors in 
their reflective nature to a certain ground for the ascription of 
moral responsibility.^ 

» Author's Note. This paper was written in the hope of stimulating dis- 
cussion of a position which has not received adequate attention in recent 
years. The position was stated rather bluntly and without the necessary quali- 
fications because of limitations of time. I hope to return to the subject at 
greater length In the near future, and on that occasion to present a more 
balanced treatment which wiU attempt to meet criticisms made in the dis- 
cussion. {December 1957.) 

Chapter 3 

What M@aii§ This Freedom? 

John Hospers, Brooklyn College 

I AM IN AGREEMENT to a vcry large extent with the conclu- 
sions of Professor Edwards' paper, and am happy in these 
days of "soft determinism" to hear the other view so force- 
fully and fearlessly stated. As a preparation for developing my 
own views on the subject, I want to mention a factor that I 
think is of enormous importance and relevance: namely, un- 
conscious motivation. There are many actions — not those of 
an insane person (however the term "insane" be defined), nor 
of a person ignorant of the effects of his action, nor ignorant 
of some relevant fact about the situation, nor in any obvious 
way mentally deranged — for which human beings in general 
and the courts in particular are inclined to hold the doer re- 
sponsible, and for which, I would say, he should not be held 
responsible. The deed may be planned, it may be carried out 
in cold calculation, it may spring from the agent's character 
and be continuous with the rest of his behavior, and it may be 
perfectly true that he could have done differently // he had 
wanted to; nonetheless his behavior was brought about by 
unconscious conflicts developed in infancy, over which he had 
no control and of which (without training in psychiatry) he 
does not even have knowledge. He may even think he knows 
why he acted as he did, he may think he has conscious control 
over his actions, he may even think he is fully responsible for 
them; but he is not. Psychiatric casebooks provide hundreds of 
examples. The law and common sense, though puzzled some- 
times by such cases, are gradually becoming aware that they 
exist; but at this early stage countless tragic blunders still 
occur because neither the law nor the public in general is 
aware of the genesis of criminal actions. The mother blames 
her daughter for choosing the wrong men as candidates for 
husbands; but though the daughter thinks she is choosing 
freely and spends a considerable amount of time "deciding" 
among them, the identification with her sick father, resulting 
from Oedipal fantasies in early childhood, prevents her from 
caring for any but sick men, twenty or thirty years older than 
herself. Blaming her is beside the point; she cannot help it, 


What Means This Freedom? / 127 

and she cannot change it. Countless criminal acts are thought ^ 
out in great detail; yet the participants are (without their own , 
knowledge) acting out fantasies, fears, and defenses from ; 
early childhood, over whose coming and going they have no 
conscious control. 

Now, I am not saying that none of these persons should be 
in jails or asylums. Often society must be protected against 
them. Nor am I saying that people should cease the practices 
of blaming and praising, punishing and rewarding; in general 
these devices are justified by the results — although very often 
they have practically no effect; the deeds are done from inner 
compulsion, which is not lessened when the threat of punish- 
ment is great. I am only saying that frequently persons we 
think responsible are not properly to be called so; we mis- 
takenly think them responsible because we assume they are 
like those in whom no unconscious drive (toward this type of 
behavior) is present, and that their behavior can be changed 
by reasoning, exhorting, or threatening. 

I have said that these persons are not responsible. But what 
is the criterion for responsibility? Under precisely what con- 
ditions is a person to be held morally responsible for an ac- 
tion? Disregarding here those conditions that have to do with 
a person's ignorance of the situation or the effects of his 
action, let us concentrate on those having to do with his "inner 
state." There are several criteria that might be suggested: 

1 . The first idea that comes to mind is that responsibility is 
determined by the presence or absence of premeditation — the 
opposite of "premeditated" being, presumably, "unthinking" 
or "impulsive." But this will not do — ^both because some acts 
are not premeditated but responsible, and because some are 
premeditated and not responsible. 

Many acts we call responsible can be as unthinking or im- 
pulsive as you please. If you rush across the street to help the 
victim of an automobile collision, you are (at least so we 
would ordinarily say) acting responsibly, but you did not do 
so out of premeditation; you saw the accident, you didn't 
think, you rushed to the scene without hesitation. It was like 
a reflex action. But you acted responsibly: unlike the knee 
jerk, the act was the result of past training and past thought 
about situations of this kind; that is why you ran to help in- 
stead of ignoring the incident or rurming away. When some- 
thing done originally from conviction or training becomes 

128 / Detenninism and Freedom 

habitual, it becomes like a reflex action. As Aristotle said, 
virtue should become second nature through habit: a virtuous 
act should be performed as // by instinct; this, far from de- 
tracting from its moral worth, testifies to one's mastery of the 
desired type of behavior; one does not have to make a moral 
effort each time it is repeated. 

There are also premeditated acts for which, I would say, 
the person is not responsible. Premeditation, especially when 
it is so exaggerated as to issue in no action at all, can be the 
result of neurotic disturbance or what we sometimes call an 
emotional "block," which the person inherits from long-past 
situations. In Hamlet's revenge on his uncle (I use this ex- 
ample because it is familiar to all of us), there was no lack, 
but rather a surfeit, of premeditation; his actions were so 
exquisitely premeditated as to make Freud and Dr. Ernest 
Jones look more closely to find out what lay behind them. The 
very premeditation camouflaged unconscious motives of which 
Hamlet himself was not aware. I think this is an important 
point, since it seems that the courts often assume that pre- 
meditation is a criterion of responsibility. If failure to kill his 
uncle had been considered a crime, every court in the land 
would have convicted Hamlet. Again: a woman's decision to 
stay with her husband in spite of endless "mental cruelty" is, 
if she is the victim of an unconscious masochistic "will to 
punishment," one for which she is not responsible; she is the 
victim and not the agent, no matter how profound her convic- 
tion that she is the agent; she is caught in a masochistic web 
(of complicated genesis) dating back to babyhood, perhaps 
a repetition of a comparable situation involving her own 
parents, a repetition-compulsion that, as Freud said, goes "be- 
yond the pleasure principle." Again: a criminal whose crime 
was carefully planned step by step is usually considered re- 
sponsible, but as we shall see in later examples, the over- 
whelming impulse toward it, stemming from an unusually 
humiliating ego defeat in early childhood, was as compulsive 
as any can be. 

2. Shall we say, then, that a person is not responsible for his 
act unless he can defend it with reasons? I am afraid that this 
criterion is no better than the previous one. First, intellectuals 
are usually better at giving reasons than nonintellectuals, and 
according to this criterion would be more responsible than 
persons acting from moral conviction not implemented by 
reasoning; yet it is very doubtful whether we should want to 
say that the latter are the more responsible. Second, the giving 

What Means This Freedom? / 129 

of reasons itself may be suspect. The reasons may be rationali- 
zations camouflaging unconscious motives of which the agent 
knows nothing. Hamlet gave many reasons for not doing what 
he felt it was his duty to do: the time was not right, his uncle's 
soul might go to heaven, etc. His various "reasons" contra- 
dicted one another, and if an overpowering compulsion had 
not been present, the highly intellectual Hamlet would not 
have been taken in for a moment by these rationalizations. 
The real reason, the Oedipal conflict that made his uncle's 
crime the accomplishment of his own deepest desire, binding 
their fates into one and paralyzing him into inaction, was un- | 
conscious and of course unknown to him. One's intelligence tl 
and reasoning power do not enable one to escape from un- p 
consciously motivated behavior; it only gives one greater facil- | 
ity in rationalizing that behavior; one's intelligence is simply | 
used in the interests of the neurosis — it is pressed into service 
to justfy with reasons what one does quite independently of 
the reasons. 

If these two criteria are inadequate, let us seek others. 

3. Shall we say that a person is responsible for his action 
unless it is the result of unconscious forces of which he knows 
nothing? Many psychoanalysts would probably accept this 
criterion. If it is not largely reflected in the language of re- 
sponsibility as ordinarily used, this may be due to ignorance 
of fact: most people do not know that there are such things 
as unconscious motives and unconscious conflicts causing hu- 
man beings to act. But it may be that if they did, perhaps they 
would refrain from holding persons responsible for certain 

I do not wish here to quarrel with this criterion of re- 
sponsibility. I only want to point out the fact that if this criter- 
ion is employed a far greater number of actions will be ex- 
cluded from the domain of responsibility than we might at 
first suppose. Whether we are neat or untidy, whether we are 
selfish or unselfish, whether we provoke scenes or avoid them, 
even whether we can exert our powers of will to change our 
behavior — all these may, and often do, have their source in 
our unconscious life. 

4. Shall we say that a person is responsible for his act un- 
less it is compelled? Here we are reminded of Aristotle's as- 
sertion {Nicomachean Ethics, Book III) that a person is 
responsible for his act except for reasons of either ignorance 
or compulsion. Ignorance is not part of our problem here (un- 
less it is unconsciously induced ignorance of facts previously 

130 / Determinism and Freedom 

remembered and selectively forgotten — in which case the for- 
getting is again compulsive), but compulsion is. How will 
compulsion do as a criterion? The difficulty is to state just 
what it means. When we say an act is compelled in a psycho- 
logical sense, our language is metaphorical — which is not to 
say that there is no point in it or that, properly interpreted, it 
is not true. Our actions are compelled in a literal sense if 
someone has us in chains or is controlling our bodily move- 
ments. When we say that the storm compelled us to jettison 
the cargo of the ship (Aristotle's example), we have a less 
literal sense of compulsion, for at least it is open to us to go 
down with the ship. When psychoanalysts say that a man was 
compelled by unconscious conflicts to wash his hands con- 
stantly, this is also not a literal use of "compel"; for nobody 
forced his hands under the tap. Still, it is a typical example 
of what psychologists call compulsive behavior: it has uncon- 
scious causes inaccessible to introspection, and moreover noth- 
ing can change it — it is as inevitable for him to do it as it 
would be if someone were forcing his hands under the tap. In 
this it is exactly hke the action of a powerful external force; it 
is just as little within one's conscious control. 

In its area of application this interpretation of responsibility 
comes to much the same as the previous one. And this area 
. is very great indeed. For if we cannot be held responsible for 
I the infantile situations (in which we were after all passive 
victims), then neither, it would seem, can we be held respon- 
sible for compulsive actions occurring in adulthood that are 
inevitable consequences of those infantile situations. And, 
psychiatrists and psychoanalysts tell us, actions fulfilling this 
description are characteristic of all people some of the time 
and some people most of the time. Their occurrence, once the 
infantile events have taken place, is inevitable, just as the ex- 
plosion is inevitable once the fuse has been lighted; there is 
simply more "delayed action" in the psychological explosions 
than there is in the physical ones. 

(I have not used the word "inevitable" here to mean 
"causally determined," for according to such a definition every 
event would be inevitable if one accepted the causal principle 
in some form or other; and probably nobody except certain 
philosophers uses "inevitable" in this sense. Rather, I use 
"inevitable" in its ordinary sense of "cannot be avoided." To 
the extent, therefore, that adult neurotic manifestations can 
be avoided, once the infantile patterns have become set, the 
assertion that they are inevitable is not true.) 

What Means This Freedom? / 131 

5. There is still another criterion, which I prefer to the 
previous ones, by which a man's responsibility for an act can 
be measured: the degree to which that act can (or could have 
been) changed by the use of reasons. Suppose that the man 
who washes his hands constantly does so, he says, for hygienic 
reasons, believing that if he doesn't do so he will be poisoned 
by germs. We now convince him, on the best medical author- f, 
ity, that his belief is groundless. Now, the test of his responsi- 
bility is whether the changed belief will result in changed be- ' 
havior. If it does not, as with the compulsive hand washer, he 
is not acting responsibly, but if it does, he is. It is not the use 
of reasons, but their efficacy in changing behavior, that is 
being made the criterion of responsibility. And clearly in 
neurotic cases no such change occurs; in fact, this is often 
made the defining characteristic of neurotic behavior: it is 
unchangeable by any rational considerations. 


I have suggested these criteria to distinguish actions for 
which we can call the agent responsible from those for which 
we cannot. Even persons with extensive knowledge of psychi- 
atry do not, I think, use any one of these criteria to the exclu- 
sion of the others; a conjunction of two or more may be used 
at once. But however they may be combined or selected in 
actual application, I believe we can make the distinction along 
some such lines as we have suggested. 

But is there not still another possible meaning of "responsi- 
bility" that we have not yet mentioned? Even after we have 
made all the above distinctions, there remains a question in 
our minds whether we are, in the final analysis, responsible for 
any of our actions at all. The issue may be put this way: How 
can anyone be responsible for his actions, since they grow out 
of his character, which is shaped and molded and made what 
it is by influences — some hereditary, but most of them stem- 
ming from early parental environment — that were not of his 
own making or choosing? This question, I believe, still 
troubles many people who would agree to all the distinctions 
we have just made but still have the feeling that "this isn't all." 
They have the uneasy suspicion that there is a more ultimate 
sense, a "deeper" sense, in which we are not responsible for 
our actions, since we are not responsible for the character out 
of which those actions spring. This, of course, is the sense 
Professor Edwards was describing. 

Let us take as an example a criminal who, let us say. 

132 / Determinism and Freedom 

strangled several persons and is himself now condemned to 
die in the electric chair. Jury and public alike hold him fully 
responsible (at least they utter the words "he is responsible"), 
for the murders were planned down to the minutest detail, and 
the defendant tells the jury exactly how he planned them. But 
now we find out how it all came about; we learn of parents 
who rejected him from babyhood, of the childhood spent in 
one foster home after another, where it was always plain to 
him that he was not wanted; of the constantly frustrated early 
desire for affection, the hard shell of nonchalance and bitter- 
ness that he assumed to cover the painful and humiliating fact 
of being unwanted, and his subsequent attempts to heal these 
wounds to his shattered ego through defensive aggression. 

The criminal is the most passive person in this world, helpless 
as a baby in his motorically inexpressible fury. Not only does he 
try to wreak revenge on the mother of the earliest period of his 
babyhood; his criminality is based on the inner feeling of being 
incapable of making the mother even feel that the child seeks 
revenge on her. The situation is that of a dwarf trying to annoy 
a giant who superciliously refuses to see these attempts. . . . 
Because of his inner feeling of being a dwarf, the criminotic 
uses, so to speak, dynamite. Of that the giant must take cogni- 
zance. True, the "revenge" harms the avenger. He may be 
legally executed. However, the primary inner aim of forcing 
the giant to acknowledge the dwarf's fury is fulfilled.^ 

The poor victim is not conscious of the inner forces that exact 
from him this ghastly toll; he battles, he schemes, he revels in 
pseudo-aggression, he is miserable, but he does not know 
what works within him to produce these catastrophic acts of 
crime. His aggressive actions are the wriggling of a worm on 
a fisherman's hook. And if this is so, it seems difficult to say 
any longer, "He is responsible." Rather, we shall put him be- 
hind bars for the protection of society, but we shall no longer 
flatter our feeling of moral superiority by calling him person- 
ally responsible for what he did. 

Let us suppose it were established that a man commits 
murder only if, sometime during the previous week, he has 
eaten a certain combination of foods — say, tuna fish salad at 
a meal also including peas, mushroom soup, and blueberry 
pie. What if we were to track down the factors common to all 
murders committed in this country during the last twenty 

1 Edmund Bergler, The Basic Neurosis (New York: Grune and Stratton, 
1949), p. 305. 

What Means This Freedom? / 133 

years and found this factor present in all of them, and only 
in them? The example is of course empirically absurd; but 
may it not be that there is some combination of factors that 
regularly leads to homicide, factors such as are described in 
general terms in the above quotation? (Indeed the situation in 
the quotation is less fortunate than in our hypothetical ex- 
ample, for it is easy to avoid certain foods once we have been 
warned about them, but the situation of the infant is thrust 
on him; something has already happened to him once and for 
all, before he knows it has happened.) When such specific 
factors are discovered, won't they make it clear that it is fool- 
ish and pointless, as well as immoral, to hold human beings 
responsible for crimes? Or, if one prefers biological to psycho- 
logical factors, suppose a neurologist is called in to testify 
at a murder trial and produces X-ray pictures of the brain of 
the criminal; anyone can see, he argues, that the cella turcica 
was already calcified at the age of nineteen; it should be a 
flexible bone, growing, enabling the gland to grow.^ All the 
defendant's disorders might have resulted from this early cal- 
cification. Now, this particular explanation may be empirically 
false; but who can say that no such factors, far more complex, 
to be sure, exist? 

When we know such things as these, we no longer feel so 
much tempted to say that the criminal is responsible for his 
crime; and we tend also (do we not?) to excuse him — not 
legally (we still confine him to prison) but morally; we no 
longer call him a monster or hold him personally responsible 
for what he did. Moreover, we do this in general, not merely 
in the case of crime: "You must excuse Grandmother for 
being irritable; she's really quite ill and is suffering some pain 
all the time." Or: "The dog always bites children after she's 
had a litter of pups; you can't blame her for it: she's not feel- 
ing well, and besides she naturally wants to defend them." Or: 
"She's nervous and jumpy, but do excuse her: she has a severe 
glandular disturbance." , 

Let us note that the more thoroughly and in detail we know 
the causal factors leading a person to behave as he does, the 
more we tend to exempt him from responsibility. When we 
know nothing of the man except what we see him do, we say 
he is an ungrateful cad who expects much of other people and 
does nothing in return, and we are usually indignant. When 
we leam that his parents were the same way and, having no 

= Meyer Levin, Compulsion (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956), p. 

134 / Determinism and Freedom 

guilt feelings about this mode of behavior themselves, brought 
him up to be greedy and avaricious, we see that we could 
hardly expect him to have developed moral feelings in this 
direction. When we learn, in addition, that he is not aware of 
being ungrateful or selfish, but unconsciously represses the 
memory of events unfavorable to himself, we feel that the 
situation is unfortunate but "not really his fault." When we 
know that this behavior of his, which makes others angry, oc- 
curs more constantly when he feels tense or insecure, and that 
he now feels tense and insecure, and that relief from pressure 
will diminish it, then we tend to "feel sorry for the poor guy" 
and say he's more to be pitied than censured. We no longer 
want to say that he is personally responsible; we might rather 
blame nature or his parents for having given him an unfortun- 
ate constitution or temperament. 

In recent years a new form of punishment has been imposed 
on middle-aged and elderly parents. Their children, now in their 
twenties, thirties or even forties, present them with a modem 
grievance: "My analysis proves that you are responsible for my 
neurosis." Overawed by these authoritative statements, the poor 
tired parents fall easy victims to the newest variations on the 
scapegoat theory. 

In my opinion, this senseless cruelty — ^which disinters educa- 
tional sins which had been burned for decades, and uses them as 
the basis for accusations which the victims cannot answer — is 
unjustified. Yes "the truth loves to be centrally located" (Mel- 
ville), and few parents — since they are human — ^have been per- 
fect. But granting their mistakes, they acted as their neurotic 
difficulties forced them to act. To turn the tables and declare 
the children not guilty because of the impersonal nature of their 
own neuroses, while at the same time the parents are personally 
blamed, is worse than illogical; it is profoxmdly unjust.^ 

And so, it would now appear, neither of the parties is respon- 
sible: "they acted as their neurotic difficulties forced them to 
act." The patients are not responsible for their neurotic mani- 
festations, but then neither are the parents responsible for 
theirs; and so, of course, for their parents in turn, and theirs 
before them. It is the twentieth-century version of the family 
curse, the curse on the House of Atreus. 

"But," a critic complains, "it's immoral to exonerate people 
indiscriminately in this way. I might have thought it fit to 

• Edmund Bergler, The Superego (New York: Onme and Stratton, 1952), 
p. 320. 

What Means This Freedom? / 135 

excuse somebody because he was born on the other side of the 
tracks, if I didn't know so many bank presidents who were 
also born on the other side of the tracks." Now, I submit that 
the most immoral thing in this situation is the critic's carica- 
ture of the conditions of the excuse. Nobody is excused 
merely because he was born on the other side of the tracks. 
But if he was born on the other side of the tracks and was a 
highly narcissistic infant to begin with and was repudiated 
or neglected by his parents and . . . (here we list a finite num- 
ber of conditions), and if this complex of factors is regularly 
followed by certain behavior traits in adulthood, and more- 
over unavoidably so — that is, they occur no matter what he 
or anyone else tries to do— then we excuse him morally and 
say he is not responsible for his deed. If he is not responsible ' 
for A, a series of events occurring in his babyhood, then 
neither is he responsible for B, a series of things he does in 
adulthood, provided that B inevitably — ^that is, unavoidably 
— follows upon the occurrence of A. And according to psychi- 
atrists and psychoanalysts, this often happens. ) 

But one may still object that so far we have talked only 
about neurotic behavior. Isn't nonneurotic or normal or not 
unconsciously motivated (or whatever you want to call it) 
behavior still within the area of responsibility? There are 
reasons for answering "No" even here, for the normal person 
no more than the neurotic one has caused his own character, 
which makes him what he is. Granted that neurotics are not 
responsible for their behavior (that part of it which we call 
neurotic) because it stems from undigested infantile conflicts 
that they had no part in bringing about, and that are external to 
them just as surely as if their behavior had been forced on 
them by a malevolent deity (which is indeed one theory on 
the subject); but the so-called normal person is equally the 
product of causes in which his volition took no part. And if, 
unlike the neurotic's, his behavior is changeable by rational 
considerations, and if he has the will power to overcome the 
effects of an unfortunate early environment, this again is no 
credit to him; he is just lucky. If energy is available to him in 
a form in which it can be mobilized for constructive purposes, 
this is no credit to him, for this too is part of his psychic leg- 
acy. Those of us who can discipline ourselves and develop 
habits of concentration of purpose tend to blame those who 
cannot, and call them lazy and weak-willed; but what we fail 
to see is that they literally cannot do what we expect; if their 
psyches were structured like ours, they could, but as they are 

136 / Determinism and Freedom 

burdened with a tyrannical super-ego (to use psychoanalytic 
jargon for the moment), and a weak defenseless ego whose 
energies are constantly consumed in fighting endless charges 
of the superego, they simply cannot do it, and it is irrational 
to expect it of them. We cannot with justification blame them 
for their inability, any more than we can congratulate our- 
selves for our ability. This lesson is hard to learn, for we con- 
stantly and naively assume that other people are constructed 
as we ourselves are. 

For example: A child raised under slum conditions, whose 
parents are socially ambitious and envy families with money, 
but who nevertheless squander the little they have on drink, 
may simply be unable in later life to mobilize a drive sufficient 
to overcome these early conditions. Common sense would 
expect that he would develop the virtue of thrift; he would 
make quite sure that be would never again endure the grind- 
ing poverty he had experienced as a child. But in fact it is not 
so: the exact conditions are too complex to be specified in de- 
tail here, but when certain conditions are fulfilled (concerning 
the subject's early life), he will always thereafter be a spend- 
thrift, and no rational considerations will be able to change 
this. He will listen to the rational considerations and see the 
force of these, but they will not be able to change him, even 
if he tries; he cannot change his wasteful habits any more than 
he can lift the Empire State Building with his bare hands. We 
moralize and plead with him to be thrifty, but we do not see 
bow strong, how utterly overpowering, and how constantly 
with him, is the opposite drive, which is so easily manageable 
with us. But he is possessed by the all-consuming, all-encom- 
passing urge to make the world see that he belongs, that he 
has arrived, that he is just as well oflE as anyone else, that the 
awful humiliations were not real, that they never actually oc- 
curred, for isn't he now able to spend and spend? The humilia- 
tion must be blotted out; and conspicuous, fleshy, expensive, 
and wasteful buying will do this; it shows the world what 
the world must know! True, it is only for the moment; true, 
it is m the end self-defeating, for wasteful consumption is the 
best way to bring poverty back again; but the person with an 
overpowering drive to mend a lesion to his narcissism cannot 
resist the avalanche of that drive with his puny rational con- 
sideration. A man with his back against the wall and a gun at 
his throat doesn't think of what may happen ten years hence. 
(Consciously, of course, he knows nothing of this drive; all 
that appears to consciousness is its shattering effects; he 

WThiat Means This Freedom? / 137 

knows only that he must keep on spending — not why — and 
that he is unable to resist.) He hasn't in him the psychic ca- 
pacity, the energy to stem the tide of a drive that at that mo- 
ment is all-powerful. We, seated comfortably away from this 
flood, sit in judgment on him and blame him and exhort him 
and criticize him; but he, carried along by the flood, cannot 
do otherwise than he does. He may fight with all the strength 
of which he is capable, but it is not enough. And we, who are 
rational enough at least to exonerate a man in a situation of 
"overpowering impulse" when we recognize it to be one, do 
not even recognize this as an example of it; and so, in addition 
to being swept away in the flood that childhood conditions 
rendered inevitable, he must also endure our lectures, our 
criticisms, and our moral excoriation. -s,^ 

But, one will say, he could have overcome his spendthrift] 
tendencies; some people do. Quite true: some people do. They 
are lucky. They have it in them to overcome early deficiencies > 
by exerting great effort, and they are capable of exerting the ' 
effort. Some of us, luckier still, can overcome them with but 
little effort; and a few, the luckiest, haven't the deficiencies to 
overcome. It's all a matter of luck. The least lucky are those 
who can't overcome them, even with great effort, and those 
who haven't the ability to exert the effort. ~^ 

But, one persists, it isn't a matter simply of luck; it is a 
matter of effort. Very well then, it's a matter of effort; without X 
exerting the effort you may not overcome the deficiency. But 
whether or not you are the kind of person who has it in himj 
to exert the effort is a matter of luck. 

All this is well known to psychoanalysts. They can predict, 
from minimal cues that most of us don't notice, whether a 
person is going to turn out to be lucky or not. "The analyst," 
they say, "must be able to use the residue of the patient's un- 
conscious guilt so as to remove the symptom or character trait 
that creates the guilt. The guilt must not only be present, but 
available for use, mobilizable. If it is used up (absorbed) in 
criminal activity, or in an excessive amount of self-damaging 
tendencies, then it cannot be used for therapeutic purposes, 
and the prognosis is negative." Not all philosophers will relish 
the analyst's wav of putting the matter, but at least as a physi- 
cian he can soon detect whether the patient is lucky or un- 
lucky — and he knows that whichever it is, it isn't the patient's 
fault. The patient's conscious volition cannot remedy the 
deficiency. Even whether he will co-operate with the analyst 
is really out of the patient's hands: if he continually projects 

138 / Determinism and Freedom 

the denying-mother fantasy on the analyst and unconsciously 
identifies him always with the cruel, harsh forbidder of the 
nursery, thus frustrating any attempt at impersonal observa- 
tion, the sessions are useless; yet if it happens that way, he 
can't help that either. That fatal projection is not under his 
control; whether it occurs or not depends on how his uncon- 
scious identifications have developed since his infancy. He can 
try, yes — but the ability to try enough for the therapy to have 
effect is also beyond his control; the capacity to try more than 
just so much is either there or it isn't — and either way "it's in 
the lap of the gods." 

The position, then, is this: if we can overcome the effects of 
early environment, the ability to do so is itself a product of 
the early environment. We did not give ourselves this ability; 
and if we lack it we cannot be blamed for not having it. Some- 
times, to be sure, moral exhortation brings out an ability that 
is there but not being used, and in this lies its occasional util- 
ity; but very often its use is pointless, because the ability is not 
there. The only thing that can overcome a desire, as Spinoza 
said, is a stronger contrary desire; and many times there 
simply is no wherewithal for producing a stronger contrary 
desire. Those of us who do have the wherewithal are lucky. 

There is one possible practical advantage in remembering 
this. It may prevent us (unless we are compulsive blamers) 
from indulging in righteous indignation and committing the 
sin of spiritual pride, thanking God that we are not as this 
publican here. And it will protect from our useless moralizings 
those who are least equipped by nature for enduring them. 
As with responsibility, so with deserts. Someone commits a 
crime and is punished by the state; "he deserved it," we say 
self-righteously — as if we were moral and he immoral, when 
in fact we are lucky and he is unlucky — forgetting that there, 
but for the grace of God and a fortunate early environment, 
go we. Or, as Clarence Darrow said in his speech for the de- 
fense in the Loeb-Leopold case: 

I do not believe that people are in jail because they deserve to 
be. ... I know what causes the emotional life. ... I know it is 
practically left out of some. Without it they cannot act with the 
rest. They cannot feel the moral shocks which safeguard others. 
Is [this man] to blame that his machine is imperfect? Who is 
to blame? I do not know. I have never in my life been interested 
so much in fixing blame as I have in relieving people from 
blame. I am not wise enough to fix it.* 

* Levin, op. cit., pp. 439-40, 469. 

What Means This Freedom? / 139 

I want to make it quite clear that I have not been arguing 
for determinism. Though I find it difficult to give any sense to 
the term "indeterminism," because I do not know what it 
would be like to come across an uncaused event, let us grant 
indeterminists everything they want, at least in words — 
influences that suggest but do not constrain, a measure of 
acausality in an otherwise rigidly causal order, and so on — 
whatever these phrases may mean. With all this granted, ex- 
actly the same situation faces the indeterminist and the deter- 
minist; all we have been saying would still hold true. "Are 
our powers innate or acquired?" <^ 

Suppose the powers are declared innate; then the villain may 
sensibly ask whether he is responsible for what he was bom 
with. A negative reply is inevitable.Are they then acquired? Then 
the ability to acquire them — ^was that innate? or acquired? It is 
innate? Very well then. . . .^ 

The same fact remains — ^that we did not cause our characters, 
that the influences that made us what we are are influences 
over which we had no control and of whose very existence we 
had no knowledge at the time. This fact remains for "deter- 
minism" and "indeterminism" alike. And it is this fact to 
which I would appeal, not the specific tenets of traditional 
forms of "determinism," which seem to me, when analyzed, 
empirically empty. 

"But," it may be asked, "isn't it your view that nothing 
ultimately could be other than it is? And isn't this determin- 
istic? And isn't it deterministic if you say that human beings 
could never act otherwise than they do, and that their desires 
and temperaments could not, when you consider their ante- 
cedent conditions, be other than they are?" 

I reply that all these charges rest on confusions. 

1. To say that nothing could be other than it is, is, taken 
literally, nonsense; and if taken as a way of saying something 
else, misleading and confusing. If you say, "I can't do it," this 
invites the question, "No? Not even if you want to?" "Can" 
and "could" are power words, used in the context of human 
action; when appBeH^o nature they are merely anthropomor- 

* This section of Professor riospers' paper was not read In Its present form 
at the conference. — Ed. 

" W. I. Matson, "The Irrelevance of Free-wiU to Moral Responsibility," 
Uind, LXV (October 1956), p. 495. 

140 / Determinism and Freedom 

phic. "Could" has no application to natxire — unless, of course, 
it is uttered in a theological context: one might say that God 
could have made things different. But with regard to inani- 
mate nature "could" has no meaning. Or perhaps it is in- 
tended to mean that the order of nature is in some sense 
necessary. But in that case the sense of "necessary" must be 
specified. I know what "necessary" means when we are talk- 
ing about propositions, but not when we are talking about the 
sequence of events in nature. 

2. What of the charge that we could never have acted 
otherwise than we did? This, I submit, is simply not true. Here 
the exponents of Hume-Mill-Schlick-Ayer "soft determinism" 
are quite right. I could have gone to the opera today instead 
of coming here; that is, if certain conditions had been differ- 
ent, I should have gone. I could have done many other things 
instead of what I did, if some condition or other had been 
different, specifically if my desire had been different. I repeat 
that "could" is a power word, and "I could have done this" 
means approximately "I should have done this if I had wanted 
to." In this sense, all of us could often have done otherwise 
than we did. I would not want to say that I should have done 
differently even if all the conditions leading up to my action 
had been the same (this is generally not what we mean by 
"could" anyway) ; but to assert that I could have is empty, for 
if I did act different from the time before, we would auto- 
matically say that one or more of the conditions were differ- 
ent, whether we had independent evidence for this or not, 
thus rendering the assertion immune to empirical refutation. 
(Once again, the vacuousness of "determinism.") 

3. Well, then, could we ever have, not acted, but desired 
otherwise than we did desire? This gets us once again to the 
heart of the matter we were discussing in the previous section. 

/ Russell said, "We can do as we please but we can't please as 
we please." But I am persuaded that even this statement con- 

\ ceals a fatal mistake. Let us follow the same analysis through. 

j "I could have done X" means "I should have done AT if I had 

I wanted to." "I could have wanted AT" by the same analysis 
would mean "I should have wanted X if I had wanted to" — 
which seems to make no sense at all. (What does Russell 
want? To please as he doesn't please?) 
fl 1/ What does this show? It shows, I think, that the only 
'^•' ' meaningful context of "can" and "could have" is that of 
action. "Could have acted differently" makes sense; "could 

What Means This Freedom? / 141 

have desired differently," as we have just seen, does not. Be- 
cause a word or phrase makes good sense in one context, let 
us not assume that it does so in another. ^ 

I conclude, then, with the following suggestion: that we|/T| 
operate on two levels of moral discourse, which we shouldn't' 
confuse; one (let's call it the upper level) is that of actions; ^l' 
the other (the lower, or deeper, level) is that of the springs 
of action. Most moral talk occurs on the upper level. It is 
on this level that the Hume-Mill-Schlick-Ayer analysis of 
freedom fully applies. As we have just seen, "can" and 
"could" acquire their meaning on this level; so, I suspect, does 
"freedom." So does the distinction between compulsive and 
noncompulsive behavior, and among the senses of "responsi- 
bility," discussed in the first section of this paper, according 
to which we are responsible for some things and not for 
others. All these distinctions are perfectly valid on this level 
(or in this dimension) of moral discourse; and it is, after all, 
the usual one — we are practical beings interested in changing 
the course of human behavior, so it is natural enough that 99 
per cent of our moral talk occurs here. 

But when we descend to what I have called the lower level 
of moral discourse, as we occasionally do in thoughtful mo- 
ments when there is no immediate need for action, then we 
must admit that we are ultimately the kind of persons we are 
because of conditions occurring outside us, over which we had 
no control. But while this is true, we should beware of extend- 
ing the moral terminology we used on the other level to this 
one also. "Could" and "can," as we have seen, no longer have 
meaning here. "Right" and "wrong," which apply only to 
actions, have no meaning here either. I suspect that the same 
is true of "responsibility," for now that we have recalled often 
forgotten facts about our being the product of outside forces, 
we must ask in all seriousness what would be added by saying 
that we are not responsible for our own characters and tem- 
peraments. What would it mean even? Has it a significant 
opposite? What would it be like to be responsible for one's 
own character? What possible situation is describable by this 
phrase? Instead of saying that it is false that we are responsi- 
ble for our own characters, I should prefer to say that the 
utterance is meaningless — meaningless in the sense that it de- 
scribes no possible situation, though it seems to because the 
word "responsible" is the same one we used on the upper 
level, where it marks a real distinction. If this is so, the result 
is that moral terms — at least the terms "could have" and "re- 

H2 / Determinism and Freedom 

sponsible" — simply drop out on the lower level. What re- 
mains, shorn now of moral terminology, is the point we tried 
to bring out in Part 11: whether or not we have personality 
disturbances, whether or not we have the ability to overcome 
deficiences of early environment, is like the answer to the 
question whether or not we shall be struck down by a dread 
disease: "it's all a matter of luck." It is important to keep this 
in mind, for people almost always forget it, with consequences 
in human intolerance and unnecessary suffering that are in- 



Chapter 1 

"Excusing Conditions" and 
Moral Responsibility 

Elizabeth Lane Beardsley, Lincoln University 

Mr. Hart presents an extremely interesting justification of 
the use of "excusing conditions" as removing liability to legal 
penalties on the ground that the individual's powers of pre- 
diction and choice are thereby maximized. That is, the in- 
dividual can be more confident of being able to predict and 
control the possibility that legal penalties wUl be applied to 
him that he could in a society that abolished excusing condi- 
tions. As I understand Mr. Hart's thesis, this consideration 
is deemed sufficient to justify the use of excusing conditions. 
But, although this line of thought seems to shed considerable 
light on the problem why we approve of excusing conditions, 
I am not quite convinced that this can be the entire truth of 
the matter. 

It seems clear that if I lived in a society in which all liability 
to legal penalties was of the "strict" kind, I should stand in 
danger of suffering such penalties without having really 
chosen to commit the act that brought them upon me. Here 
the absence of excusing conditions is a necessary condition of 
my standing in such danger. The extent of the danger, how- 
ever, depends also on the likelihood of my ever being in one 
of the conditions that in other societies would be regarded as 
excusing. And some of these conditions, such as mental dis- 
ease and psychopathic states in general, and also ignorance, 
appear capable, in principle at least, of being reduced in inci- 
dence by fairly direct action. 

If we now perform the kind of mental experiment so skill- 
fully carried out by Mr. Hart, we may compare the situation 
in two different hypothetical societies, 51 and 52. In 51, all 
liability to legal sanctions is of the strict kind, but the chances 
of anyone's suffering such sanctions because of insanity or 
neurosis or ignorance are small, because the incidence of these 
conditions is low. In 52, on the other hand, insanity, neurosis, 


146 / Determmism and Freedom 

and ignorance are much more prevalent, but here they consti- 
tute excusing conditions. (A member of S2 stands in some 
slight danger of suffering legal penalties for acts committed 
when in these conditions, because of the difficulties of estab- 
lishing the presence or absence of the conditions.) In both 51 
and 52, the danger of suffering legal penalties for acts com- 
mitted because of mental aberration or ignorance is small — 
let us assume that it is equally small. The reduction of this 
danger is certainly an achievement to which we give moral 
approval. But in 51 and 52 it has been accomplished by differ- 
ent means, and it seems to me that our moral appraisal of 
the methods used by the two societies is not the same. There 
is an element of moral value in the method used by 52 that 
is absent in what has been done in 51. This seems to indicate 
that something more than the power to maximize the indi- 
vidual's power of prediction and choice underlies our ap- 
proval of the use of at least certain ones of the excusing 



The thesis set forth by C. A. Campbell,^ and Edwards, that 
people differ with regard to their reflectiveness concerning the 
problem of relating the concepts of cause and moral blame, is 
helpful. It seems to me, however, that Mr. Edwards' two-rung 
hierarchy is a truncated one, and that it needs to be extended 
at both ends. I should like to distinguish four degrees or levels 
of reflectiveness on this matter. On the bottom level would be 
persons who do not even require that the immediate causes of 
an act be of a certain kind, i.e., that the act be voluntary (free 
from "coercion"), before the agent is blamed for it. I do not 
know whether any such persons now exist. Perhaps they do 
not, even in our simplest societies, though even complex so- 
cieties count among their members those who sometimes 
direct judgments of blame toward agents without first ascer- 
taining that their acts were voluntary. In any case, it is 
certainly plausible to assume that the hxmian race, in the 
evolution of its moral thinking, once passed through the stage 
of failing to recognize the moral significance of the distinction 
between voluntary and nonvoluntary acts. To point this out 
helps us remember that, however little reflective Mr. Edwards' 
"unreflective" individuals may be, it would be possible to be 
even less so. The individuals termed "unreflective" by Mr. 

^Mlnd, 1951. 

"Excusing Conditions" and Moral Responsibility / 147 

Edwards occupy the second level in my proposed hierarchy. 
For these persons the voluntariness of an act is a condition of 
the blameworthiness of the agent. This means that they ask 
certain questions regarding the immediate causes of an act; 
but they do not go on to ask about the causes of those causes, 
nor do they feel impelled to bring into line their views about 
the scope of causality in general, on the one hand, and their 
beliefs and practices regarding moral blame, on the other. 

The third degree of reflectiveness is reached by Mr. Ed- 
wards' "reflective" persons. These persons, as I interpret their 
state of mind, are disturbed by several considerations that do 
not trouble their second-level associates. The former agree 
that men are responsible only for their voluntary acts, but 
they see that the process of asking for the causal conditions of 
a given act can be carried much farther than is required 
merely to establish that the act is voluntary, or chosen by the 
agent; and they do not see any reason why further questions 
about more remote causal conditions leading to the choice it- 
self should be ruled out in an appraisal of the blameworthiness 
of the agent for the act chosen. Moreover, persons at this 
third level of reflectiveness are aware that when these further 
questions are asked, the answers will very soon begin to in- 
clude references to factors that are not themselves voluntary 
acts of the agent, and for which the agent cannot be held 
"responsible" from any point of view. The reaction of such 
persons is then to wonder how one can justify regarding any 
agent as blameworthy for an act, however "voluntary" it 
may seem after a limited inquiry, when it is clear that a 
further inquiry would disclose causal antecedents of the act 
that are not voluntary acts. It appears that persons at this 
level of reflectiveness make one of two drastic moves. They ] 
may feel so sure that the notions of moral blame and responsi- 
bility must be retained that they abandon the thesis that all 
acts of choosing have causal antecedents (Campbell's view), 
or they may feel so sure that all events, .including acts of 
choosing, are caused that they abandon the notions of moral 
blame and responsibility (the "hard determinism" of Edwards' 

Many moral philosophers of a determinist bent will hope 
that there is a still higher level of reflectiveness here, to which 
we may aspire. I think that there is, although I do not know 
how to describe its basic characteristics very precisely. But I 
think that such a fourth level of reflectiveness can perhaps be 
reached by those who see both the force and the flaws of the 

148 / Determinism and Freedom 

arguments that seem so persuasive at the third level. Such per- 
sons would see that the fact that the concepts of moral re- 
sponsibility and blame have limits in their application does 
not mean that they have no application. That they do have 
limits is demonstrated by the considerations advanced at the 
third level. Surely these show that there are indeed some ways 
of feeling about other people, some acts of total rejection of 
their characters, some judgments of unlimited condemnation 
for their acts, that are wholly unjustified, no matter what 
monstrous things they may do. Whatever degree of condem- 
nation would be properly reserved for a first cause of the 
doing of evil is certainly to be withheld from men. But this 
is not to say that no condemnation whatsoever is to be applied 
to men. Third-level theorists apparently believe that the de- 
cision not to blame the doers of acts that include factors 
other than voluntary acts among their causal antecedents is 
reached by a mere extension of the very same reasoning that 
leads us not to blame the doers of nonvoluntary acts; but 
this is not the case. The two premises, (1) that we are not 
morally responsible for acts unless they are voluntary, and 
(2) that for many of the causes of our acts we are not morally 
responsible, since these are not themselves voluntary acts, are 
not sufficient to yield the conclusion that we are not morally 
responsible for our voluntary acts. But those who wish to 
avoid this conclusion, without renouncing determinism in the 
process, cannot content themselves with the negative task of 
looking for loopholes in third-level arguments. Some rather 
complicated analyses of the standards that actually govern our 
judgments of moral praise and blame will be needed, along 
with much other work. The construction of a position at the 
fourth level of reflectiveness presents a difficult challenge; but 
the stimulating papers of Edwards and Hospers, as well as 
the spirited discussion that followed, have provided a strong 
incentive for continuing to try to meet that challenge. 

Chapter 2 

P®l^@rmmiSffs @rad the Jystafo^baiit/ 

Richard Brandt, Swarthmore College 

People often say that someone's act was "reprehensible" or 
"morally blameworthy" or "admirable" or "praiseworthy"; 
and they often have correspondingly favorable or unfavor- 
able attitudes toward individuals on account of their acts. 
Furthermore, they often make very similar remarks about 
the character of persons, or about persons on account of their 
character; and again they sometimes have favorable or un- 
favorable attitudes toward persons on account of their char- 
acter. We might sum all this up by saying that people 
sometimes engage in "blaming" or "praising." (A person need 
not say anything aloud in order to blame; it is enough if he 
makes a mental appraisal and takes up a corresponding atti- 

When philosophers say that human beings are "morally 
responsible" for their actions, what they apparently mean — 
although one perhaps does them an injustice if one supposes 
anything specific is meant — is that it is right and proper, 
sometimes, to engage in blaming and praising as defined above. 
People are sometimes fittingly, deservedly, praised and 
blamed. These philosophers are not just making a causal 
statement, such as "Human volitions are sometimes uncaused 
beginnings of causal series," although some such causal propo- 
sition may be part of their reason for saying that human 
beings are "morally responsible." (Sometimes, too, when 
philosophers say that people "act freely" they are not assert- 
ing any definite causal proposition, but rather, simply, that 
those causal propositions are true about human behavior that 
are not inconsistent with the fittingness of blaming and prais- 
ing behavior.) 

A great many distinguished philosophers have held that, 
if determinism is a correct theory of all human psychological 
processes, then people are not "morally responsible" for their 
actions or character; vis., blaming and praising are not really 
fitting. I am unconvinced by their reasoning, however, and 


150 / Determinism and Freedom 

shall now explain why I think determinism is not inconsistent 
with moral responsibility. 

It is convenient to begin by ascribing to these philosophers, 
who think determinism requires serious revision of ordinary 
moral thinking, a rather radical thesis, as follows. Tradition- 
ally, both in law and in morals, some acts have been regarded 
as excusable because of certain specific conditions, and other 
acts have been regarded as inexcusable in view of the absence 
of such specific conditions. Now, the radical thesis to be con- 
sidered is this: that no actions are ever inexcusable, that all 
actions are excusable in view of their having been caused. 

It would be unfair to suggest that any philosophers advo- 
cate this view in such a sweeping and unqualified form. So 
we must consider how this thesis should be complicated if 
it is to be seriously defended. 

First, nobody holds that society has no need for a system of 
criminal justice. Moreover, given such a system with legal re- 
quirements for conduct and sanctions in case of infractions, 
there must be some actions that are inexcusable as far as the 
law is concerned. Everyone is agreed that misconduct mvist be 
subject to punishment, as a condition of the protection of the 
rights of all, as a condition of a well-ordered society where 
people live in security. It is also agreed, I suppose, that any ac- 
ceptable system of criminal justice will excuse antisocial and 
forbidden behavior when it is unintentional, manifests itself 
under duress, etc., and that it wUl not excuse such behaviw 
when it is deliberate, uncompelled — in short, when none of 
the standard defenses against a criminal charge apply. This 
distinction will stand, I think, irrespective of improvements 
in the system of criminal justice due to advances in psychol- 
ogy. So far, it is not clear that the acceptance of determinism 
indicates any modifications. 

Second, the determinist must assent to a further utility of 
the distinction between excusable and inexcusable actions. 
It would be agreed today that up to a point it is correct to 
view moral criticism and accusations as an informal extension 
of the system of criminal justice. Moral criticism is a mild 
form of punishment; its occurrence is a sanction, the opera- 
tion of which can warn and teach just as do criminal codes 
and criminal proceedings. Moral criticism, like legal sanc- 
tions, is a device for social control that is justified — at any 
rate, among other things — by its good effects. And, as in 
criminal law, it is a good thing for moral criticism to recog- 
nize certain antisocial and forbidden behavior as excusable 

Determinism and the Justifiability of Moral Blame / 151 

under specific conditions similar in general type to those 
under which a person is not liable for his conduct before the 
law; and it is a good thing for moral criticism to recognize 
misconduct as inexcusable when none of these defenses are 
available. Again, then, it is not clear that the acceptance of 
determinism calls for modifications in the exercise of moral 

If the determinist finds the above two points congenial, it 
is not easy to see how he will avoid going still farther. We 
must remember that, if we are to advocate moral criticism as 
a means of social control for the sake of the general welfare, 
we must specify the conditions necessary for the application 
of moral criticism. If moral criticism is to be effective it must 
be sincere, and if it is to be sincere the critic must be so con- 
structed that he genuinely disapproves of the behavior or 
character trait he is criticizing; the capacity to be unfavorably 
excited toward persons who misbehave must be built in. 
Moreover, if, as suggested, what is wanted is a system of 
criticism that recognizes a distinction between excusable and 
inexcusable behavior, it appears we must also approve of 
people's recognizing in their own minds and consciences a 
distinction between excusable and inexcusable behavior. 

In view of these considerations we may well ask philoso- 
phers who think determinism has sweeping importance for 
moral philosophy: What exactly is it that the truth of deter- 
minism renders indefensible? Are there some practices — of 
moral criticism, etc. — that the consistent determinist must 
abandon, and if so, which? In what sense can it be said that, 
if determinism is true, no actions are inexcusable? 

Perhaps what these philosophers are arguing is this: that 
whereas, even if determinism is true, praising and blaming 
can be justified to some extent by the above utilitarian appeal 
— so far the distinction between the excusable and the in- 
excusable stands up — nevertheless no further justification can 
be given for these practices. And it may be thought, in view 
of the essential point or significance of blaming or praising, 
some further justification must be given, if these practices 
are to be accepted as fitting and proper. I agree that the utili- 
tarian justification is not enough, but I am unconvinced that 
further satisfactory justification is impossible. 

Let us be clear what is considered unfitting by these phi- 
losophers: (1) that people should feel disgust, contempt, 
anger, etc., toward others on account of their misbehavior 
(instead of excusing them) and judge correspondingly; (2) 

152 / Determinism and Freedom 

that they should approve of making human beings suffer for 
their past deeds, when other things are equal (as they perhaps 
seldom are, since, for example, suffering is something to be 
avoided); (3) that they should feel remorseful about their 
own past deeds and not excuse themselves; (4) that they 
should take pride in having done what they think they ought 
when it was hard to do so; (5) that they should feel admira- 
tion or respect for others because they did what they ought 
when few would have been able to do so; and (6) that they 
should approve of rewarding people for special achievements, 
when they did what they ought though it was hard. Perhaps 
we are unfairly including too much. But what ought we to 
exclude, on the view proposed? 

I am suggesting that the philosophers who say that deter- 
minism implies that people are not "morally responsible" are 
saying, in part, that the above activities, although they can be 
justified to some extent by their utility, cannot, in view of the 
truth of determinism, be justified in other respects, and that 
the utilitarian justification is not enough. 

On what argument do these philosophers rely in order to 
show that, considerations of utility aside, moral criticism and 
the distinction between excusable and inexcusable behavior 
are unjustified if determinism is true? Professor Edwards ar- 
gues, in effect, that a person who was convinced of the truth 
of determinism would (if he were disregarding the suggested 
utilities) never practice the various forms of moral criticism 
— or approve of such practice — if he were an impartial person 
in a calm frame of mind. I agree with him that, if such feel- 
ings would not occxir if one were calm and impartial, they are 
not moral feelings when they do occur, and that then, if deter- 
minism is true, we probably ought not to say that people are 
blameworthy or admirable. (I have some qualms, though, 
since a person who thought of the utilities might still approve 
of such critical reactions.) And it is conceivable — although 
here I would very much question whether in fact it has come 
about, even among "reflective" people — ^that "blameworthy" 
and "admirable" should be so used that a necessary condition 
for their applicability to an act or character would be that the 
latter be undetermined. 

But is it the case that we incline to stop rendering — or ap- 
proving the rendering of — ^moral judgments in our impersonal, 
nonviolent moments when we bring to mind the fact that all 
our behavior is determined and disregard the question of util- 
ity? Are we inclined to be less provoked with ourselves if we 

Determinism and the Justifiability of Moral Blame / 153 

notice, for instance, how we have given way to an envious 
thought or motive — that we have been expounding a shoddy 
argument we should have more carefully scrutinized — when 
we think of the way all this was determined? Or suppose we 
hear reliably that one of our colleagues bears a baseless 
grudge against a student, that he marks the student's examina- 
tions low for no reason, that he refuses to Usten to his ques- 
tions, that he refuses to give him a recommendation necessary 
for medical school. Do we, when we reflect on the determin- 
ism in human behavior, find our indignation melted — in the 
way it is melted if we hear that his attitude was based on some 
serious misunderstanding, or even that he has been under 
severe emotional strain on account of personal difficulties? Or 
does our admiration for someone who has stood up for a 
principle at the risk of losing his job evaporate when we re- 
flect that after all, given his make-up, such behavior was in 
the cards — as it does when we learn that our man knew from 
the start that his job was safe? It is not obvious that "No" is 
a wrong answer to these questions. 

Further debate on these important issues is doubtless called 
for. Possibly it can be shown that a person who is unimpressed 
by the plea that some selfish action should be excused be- 
cause it was determined somehow does not have a clear view 
of what it means for an action to be caused. Or again it might 
be shown that there is no formulable principle that will dis- 
tinguish conditions under which we count misbehavior as ex- 
cusable — e.g., ignorance or incapacity — from conditions 
under which we should refuse to regard misbehavior as excus- 
able. (If we do not have such a principle ready, we might still 
decide that it is more plausible to keep on looking for a satis- 
factory formulation than to give up a distinction between 
tJTses of cases that strike us as very different.) 

My comments may be summarized as follows. First, the 
distinction between excusable and inexcusable misbehavior 
cannot be abandoned altogether. It is necessary for a desirable 
system of criminal law, and there are strong reasons of utility 
for its preservation in overt moral criticism and perhaps in the 
private moral thinking and feelings of mankind, irrespective 
of the truth of determinism. Second, it remains to be shown 
that "reprehensible" €«■ "morally admirable" entails "was un- 
determined" in the usage of reflective people, or that the mak- 
ing of judgments of blame or the presence of corresponding 
feelings is causally incompatible with believing that the act in 
question was determined, even in a calm and impersonal 

154 / Determinism and Freedom 

frame of mind. And therefore the judgments and feelings 
whereby we distinguish between excusable and inexcusable be- 
havior are not undermined as being unfitting, even if the truth 
of determinism is granted. My conclusion is that the implica- 
tions of determinism for ordinary thinking about praise- 
worthiness and blameworthiness are by no means as serious 
as some philosophers suggest. 

The above remarks have been concerned only with the con- 
sistency of judgments of praise and blame with determinism. 
But they bear also on the consistency with determinism of 
judgments of duty and obligation if, as I believe to be the case, 
saying that a certain action is one's duty is to say that one will 
be morally to blame if one fails to do it unless a valid excuse 
can be offered. 

Chapter 3 

Determinism and Punishment 

Percy W. Bridgman, Harvard University 

At the present time there seems to be one question that 
looms as most important in the minds of many who are con- 
cerned with the question of punishment. This question is 
whether punishment is an acceptable line of conduct for 
society in the context provided by psychoanalysis, which pic- 
tures every single act of every individual as fully determined 
by factors over which he has no control. Thus stated, the 
problem whether to punish or not becomes a rather special 
subcase of the much more general problem of reconciling two 
patently inconsistent points of view, that of determinism and 
"free will." It is obviously of the utmost practical importance 
that we find a workable solution of this problem. Otherwise 
we become victims of a cancerous confusion leading to vacil- 
lation, like that of the donkey between two bales of hay. 

It seems to me that we have to recognize clearly that there 
are two levels of operation. There is the level of daily life and 
social interaction, i.e., the level of "free will," and there is the 
deterministic level. So far as the deterministic level has con- 
crete reference beyond the purely verbal it is the level of 
scientific activity. At this level, so far as present achievement 
goes, determinism has the status merely of a program to direct 
inquiry, a program applicable to the overwhelming majority 
of the phenomena of the world about us, including biological 
phenomena. It is a simple description of the attitude of many 
scientists to say that they can see nothing on the present hori- 
zon that would make this an impossible program, and that in 
many fields they regard finding methods of carrying out this 
program as the most promising line of scientific attack. It must 
be emphasized, however, that every biologist, and particularly 
every psychologist, would admit that at present we are fan- 
tastically far from being able to carry out such a program. 

The other level is the common-sense level of everyday life, 
the level of "free will." On this level we have to devise a 
practical method of dealing with situations in which we can- 
not control or predict. Such situations occur predominantly in 
dealing with organisms. In particular, no one can find in his 


156 / Determinism and Freedom 

own consciousness or outside it factors that would enable him 
to predict his own future behavior. We develop a language to 
describe this situation, in which our inability to foresee our 
own future and that of our fellows is reflected in the concept 
of "free will," and we further develop a whole related vocabu- 
lary for situations in which we make no attempt at control or 
prediction. It is a mere statement of fact that there are situa- 
tions in which we make no attempt at control or prediction, 
and any ultimate possibility of such control is disregarded. 
Whether or not we believe that we might at some time in the 
future achieve such control becomes, in this context, 

There is, and can be, no sharp dividing line between the 
vocabulary of determinism and that of daily life. Use of the 
vocabulary of daily life is an art, and the wisdom of all ages 
is necessary to use it effectively. 

It seems to me that much of the current unwillingness to 
use the instrument of punishment under conditions that would 
be acceptable to enlightened social opinion stems from a doc- 
trinaire insistence that our verbal edifice be a single logically 
consistent unit. It is in the nature of things impossible to erect 
a single consistent verbal structure, logically watertight in all 
respects. To insist on acting as if we could is in the first place 
self-defeating — for by what logic can the man who argues that 
punishment is unjustified expect his argument to affect the ac- 
tions of his opponent, when both his argument and the re- 
sponse to it were already rigidly predetermined? Pushed still 
further, the insistence that punishment is unjustified can lead 
only to social catastrophe. At present the only technique we 
have for dealing with our fellows is to act as if they were the 
same sort of creatures as we ourselves. We disregard deter- 
minism when dealing with ourselves — we have to disregard 
it, within reason, in our everyday contacts with others. Too 
many of us take our verbal structures with a deadly serious- 
ness — a certain tough-mindedness and small sense of humor 
might provide an antidote. 

Chapter 4 ■ 

Responsibility and Avoidability 

Roderick W. Chisholm, Brown University 

Edwards and Hospers hold that there is an important sense 
in which we may be said not to be morally responsible for 
any of our acts or choices. I propose the following as an 
explicit formulation of their reasoning: 

1. If a choice is one we could not have avoided making, 
then it is one for which we are not morally responsi- 

2. If we make a choice under conditions such that, given 
those conditions, it is (causally but not logically) im- 
possible for the choice not to be made, then the 
choice is one we could not have avoided making, 

3. Every event occvu"s under conditions such that, given 
those conditions, it is (causally but not logically) 
impossible for that event not to occur. 

4. The making of a choice is the occurrence of an event. 

5. We are not morally responsible for any of our 

If we wish to reject the conclusion (5) — and for most of us 
(5) is difficult to accept — we must reject at least one of the 

Premise ( 1 ) , I think, may be interpreted as a logical truth. 
If a man is responsible for what he did, then we may say, 
"He could have done otherwise." And if we may say, "He 
couldn't help it," then he is not responsible for what he did. 

Many philosophers would deny (2), substituting a weaker 
account of avoidability. A choice is avoidable, they might say, 
provided only it is such that, // the agent had reflected further, 
or had reflected on certain things on which in fact he did not 
reflect, he would not have made the choice. To say of a choice 
that it "could not have been avoided," in accordance with this 


158 / Determinism and Freedom 

account, would be to say that, even if the agent had reflected 
further, on anything you like, he would all the same have 
made the choice. But such conditional accounts of avoidability 
("An act or choice is avoidable provided only it is such that, 
// the agent were to do so-and-so, the act or choice would not 
occur") usually have this serious defect: the antecedent 
clause ("if the agent were to do so-and-so") refers to some 
act or choice, or to the failure to perform some act or to 
make some choice; hence we may ask, concerning the occur- 
rence or nonoccurrence of this act or choice, whether or not 
it is avoidable. Thus one who accepted (5) could say that, if 
the agent's failure to reflect further was itself unavoidable, his 
choice was also unavoidable. And no such conditional ac- 
count of avoidability seems adequate to the use of "avoid- 
able" and "unavoidable" in questions and statements such as 

If we accept a conditional account of avoidability, we may 
be tempted to say, of course, that it would be a misuse of 
"avoidable" to ask whether the nonoccurrence of the ante- 
cedent event ("the agent does so-and-so") is avoidable. But 
the philosopher who accepts (5) may well insist that, since 
the antecedent clause refers to an act or a choice, the use of 
"avoidable" in question is not a misuse. 

What, then, if we were to deny (3)? Suppose that some 
of our choices do not satisfy (3) — that when they are made 
they are not made under any conditions such that it is (caus- 
ally) impossible (though logically possible) for them not to 
be made. If there are choices of this sort, then they are 
merely fortuitous or capricious. And if they are merely for- 
tuitous or capricious, if they "just happen," then, I think, we 
may say with Blanshard that we are not morally responsible 
for them. Hence denying (3) is not the way to avoid (5). 

We seem confronted, then, with a dilemma: either our 
choices have sufficient causal conditions or they do not; if 
they do have sufficient causal conditions they are not avoid- 
able; if they do not, they are fortuitous or capricious; and 
therefore, since our choices are either unavoidable or fortui- 
tous, we are not morally responsible for them. 

There are philosophers who believe that by denying the 
rather strange-sounding premise (4) we can escape the dilem- 
ma. Insisting on something like "the primacy of practical rea- 
son," they would say that since we are certain that (5) is false 
we must construct a metaphysical theory about the self, a 
theory denying (4) and enabling us to reconcile (3) and the 

Responsibility and Avoidability / 159 

denial of (5). I say "metaphysical" because it seems to be 
necessary for the theory to replace (4) by sentences using 
such terms as "active power," "the autonomy of the will," 
"prime mover," or "higher levels of causality" — terms desig- 
nating something to which we apparently need not refer when 
expressing the conclusions of physics and the natural sciences. 
But I believe we cannot know whether such theories enable us 
to escape our dilemma. For it seems impossible to conceive 
what the relation is that, according to these theories, holds 
between the "will," "self," "mover," or "active power," on the 
one hand, and the bodily events this power is supposed to con- 
trol, on the other — the relation between the "activities" of 
the self and the events described by physics. 

I am dissatisfied, then, with what philosophers have pro- 
posed as alternatives to premises (1) through (4) above, but 
since I feel certain that (5) is false I also feel certain that at 
least one of the premises is false. 

Chapter 5 

Determinism, Freedom, and 

C. J. Ducasse, Brown University 

Several speakers at this conference appeared to take it for 
granted that determinism and freedom are incompatible, and 
hence that the questions in need of being answered were only, 
first, whether, or how far and where in particular, determin- 
ism or freedom in fact obtains; and second, what bearing 
various answers to the first question would have on practical 
issues in philosophy, science, law, and ethics. 

Underlying this conception of the points at issue is a tacit 
assumption that the concepts determinism, freedom, indeter- 
minism, and contingency are quite clear, or at least clear 
enough to make possible definite answers to the questions 
mentioned. I believe on the contrary that this assumption is 
largely mistaken, and that the inconclusiveness of the present 
discussions, as well as of innumerable other discussions of 
the same questions in the past, has been due to the fact that 
they were engaged in without adequate preliminary analysis 
of the concepts employed in them. The remarks to follow 
will therefore attempt to distinguish among several of the 
senses in which the key terms mentioned are often used; to 
clarify each of those senses; and then to indicate what does or 
does not follow as regards some of the issues in discussions of 
which those terms are commonly employed. 

1. Determinism as theoretically universal predictability. In 
science, and also in certain other contexts, determinism is 
employed to mean theoretically universal predictability; that 
is, it is used to signify that, on the basis of knowledge of (a) 
the state of the world at any given time and (b) the laws ac- 
cording to which its state at any time is related to its states 
at other times, it would be possible to infer what the state of 
the world was, or will be, at any earlier or later time. Lap- 
lace's famous statement formulates a determinism so con- 

An intelligence knowing, at a given instant of time, all forces 
acting in nature, as well as the momentary positions of all 


Determinism, Freedom and Responsibility / 161 

things of which the universe consists, would be able to compre- 
hend the motions of the largest bodies of the world and those 
of the smallest atoms in one single formula, provided it were 
sufficiently powerful to subject all data to analysis. To it, noth- 
ing would be uncertain, both future and past would be present 
before its eyes.^ 

2. Critique of Laplacian determinism. This account of de- 
terminism, however, is open to fatal criticism on several 

a. For one thing, it assumes that the physical world is the 
whole of the world; and this leaves out of account mental 
events in general and volitions in particular, unless it defines 
them as themselves purely physical events — e.g., as molecular 
events in the tissues of the brain. But so to define them is not 
legitimate, since it amounts to asserting that the term "mental 
events" does not denote by means of it, but denotes instead 
certain quite different events — such a contention being as 
paradoxical as would be the parallel one that what we intend 
to denote — i.e., to point at — when using the word "cabbages" 
is not cabbages but, say, tigers. Of course, it might conceiv- 
ably be true that all mental events are dependent on bodily 
events of some sort. But to be "dependent on" and to be 
"identically the same as" are two different relations; the first, 
being at least dyadic, precludes the second, since it is mo- 
nadic. Hence the physical world is not the whole world. 

b. But further, determinism as conceived by Laplace as- 
sumes that observation would yield precise knowledge of the 
state of the physical world at the time; and this, since the days 
of Laplace, has been disproved. It has been shown that to 
observe both the position and the velocity of a particle at a 
given time is not simply difficult but inherently impossible, 
because to attempt it is automatically to alter one or the 

c. Again, Laplacian determinism asstunes that the only 
forces at work in the world are those of classical mechanics. 
But this is not known to be true, and it is dubious in particu- 
lar in the case of biological processes, and still more so in 
the case of consciously purposive action,^ 

In addition, the determinism of Laplace ignores the possi- 
bility that some events or entities are wholly or in part sui 

^Theorte analytique des probabilit6s (3rd ed.; Paris. 1820). 

2 On this point interesting material is to be foimd in an address by H. S. 
Jennings on "Some Implications of Emergent Evolution," Science, January 
14, 1927; in E. S. Russell's The Directiveness of Organic Activities (1946); 
and in recent writings of a number of other biologists. 

162 / Determinism and Freedom 

generis — a possibility that would make the notion of laws 
governing their occurrence incongruous, since laws obtain 
with regard to events or entities only in so far as these are 
instances of a kind, but not in so far as they are individually 
unique. Indeed no event or entity is completely similar to any 
other; no matter how great may be the similarity of one to 
another, its being "other" means at least that its spatial and/ or 
temporal relations are somewhat different; and this entails that 
an individual residuum, unpredictable because unprecedented, 
is an ultimate constituent of every occurring event or existent 

d. The upshot, then, is that determinism in the sense of 
theoretically universal predictability, whether of all physical 
events only, or of events of other kinds, too — for instance, 
of mental events in general and of volitions or decisions in 
particular — is not only not known to be true, but much rather 
is known to be false. Hence the status of determinism in the 
sense of theoretically universal predictability is only that of a 
pious but bigoted article of scientistic faith. 

3. Freedom and determinism conceived as theoretically 
universal predictability. What, now, is entailed as regards free- 
dom by the indefensibility of determinism conceived as 
theoretically universal predictability? Consider a given event 
— say, the choice a given person makes on a given occasion 
among the alternatives open to his choice. Obviously, the fact 
that the choice he makes was not certainly predictable — even 
perhaps by himself — does not entail that it was "free" in any 
sense other than "free from the possibility of being pre- 
dicted"! In particular, it does not entail that the choice he 
made was uncaused in any sense of "uncaused" other than 
that of "unpredictable"; nor does it entail that the choice was 
made "freely" rather than perhaps under duress, threat, or 

4. Determinism conceived as fatalism. Certain events, e.g., 
eclipses, tides, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, etc., are be- 
yond present or prospective control by man's will. Others, 
such as the movements of his limbs, and also many effects 
that these cause directly or indirectly under specifiable condi- 
tions, are within man's control when those conditions obtain. 
Fatalism, however, in effect contends that even under those 
conditions man's volitions are not inherently efficacious to 
their intent, but that their efficacy or inefficacy is preordained, 
permitted, or perhaps implemented, as man's clumsiness or 
resourcefulness may render necessary, by some mysterious 

Determinism, Freedom and Responsibility / 163 

purposeful agency called Fate, the Gods, or Destiny; and that, 
until its decrees are fulfilled, men — other than perhaps cer- 
tain prophets — do not and cannot know what "Fate" had 

No evidence, however, that would tend to show fatalism to 
be true is available, for when the events man attempts to 
cause is of a kind he is capable of causing at will under cir- 
cumstances of certain kinds known to him, his failure to cause 
it in a given case is always explicable as resulting simply from 
his not having known that the circumstances then existing did 
in fact differ in some essential respect from those under which 
his action would have been efficacious to its intent. Fatalism 
thus arises only out of man's naive tendency to assume, ani- 
mistically, that causes which thwart or unexpectedly promote 
his purposes must themselves be purposive! 

5. Determinism as universality of causation. The thesis of 
determinism conceived as universality of causation is that 
every event that occurs has some cause and has some effect. 
Whether this thesis is true or false, and what is truth or 
falsity entails as to man's freedom depends on the nature of 
the causality relation. 

a. Hvmie offers two definitions of causality — one objective 
and the other in part subjective. According to both our judg- 
ments that certain sequences of events are causal sequences 
mean that in our experience those sequences have been 
constant, i.e., regular. Hume insists, however, both after and 
before stating his two definitions, that both of them are 
"drawn from circumstances foreign to the cause . . . from 
something extraneous and foreign to it," But although he 
acknowledges that this is inconvenient, he declares that it 
cannot be remedied. 

If, however, as some writers since Hume have done, one 
takes experienced regularity of sequence to be all that caus- 
ality consists in, then universality of causation would mean 
that every event of kind E we have experienced was in our 
experience preceded by an event of kind C and followed by 
one of kind F. And this, of course, has not in fact been the 
case. Moreover, even if it had been the case, it would entail 
nothing about events of a kind that we have experienced no 
instances of; nor even about instances we have not experi- 
enced, of a kind that we have experienced some (other) 
instances of. 

Anyway, the definition of causality simply as empirical 
regularity of sequence would, as Thomas Reid and others 

164 / Detcrminisin and Freedom 

have pointed out, require us to pronounce causal certain se- 
quences in our experience that are regular, but that we con- 
fidently deny to be causal. On the other hand, we sometimes 
pronounce a sequence causal without waiting to observe 
whether or not it is constant. That is, we pronounce it causal 
on grounds other than constancy, which, according to Hume's 
definition, alone constitutes causaUty. 

Thus the regularity of a sequence never in itself answers, 
but on the contrary always raises, the question whether the 
sequence is a causal one. That a given sequence is causal en- 
tails that repetition of its first term and of its circumstances 
will be regularly followed by repetition of its second term; 
but regularity of a sequence does not entail, but only sug- 
gests, that it is perhaps a causal one. To decide whether or 
not it is indeed causal, we need have available, and in fact 
use, a different definition of causality. 

b. Causality is the relation that obtains between the three 
factors of a perfect experiment; i.e., between a given state of 
affairs S and only two changes (whether simple or complex) 
in it — one a change C at a time Tl, and the other a change E 
at an immediately sequent time T2. If this relation obtains 
among S, C, and E, then C is, by definition, the proximate 
cause of E under the circumstances S. The causality relation 
is thus not dyadic only, but irreducibly triadic: the circum- 
stances S cannot be regarded as a part of the cause C, be- 
cause C consists of a change occurring in S. 

c. That change C in 5 was the proximate cause of change 
£ in 5 does not presuppose that S, C, and E ever occurred 
before or ever will occur again, but only that C and E were 
the only two changes in S; but it entails that, should S, and C 
in S, ever have occurred before or ever occur again, then E 
in S did, or will, follow in every such case. For in the defini- 
tion of etiological sufficiency of C in 5 to E in 5, i.e., of caus- 
ation of the latter by the former, no particular date is 
specified, but only posteriority of the time of E to the time of 
C Moreover, what occurs in S upon occurrence of C in S is 
an intrinsic element of the nature of S; hence to suppose that 
S and that C in 5 recur, but that £ in 5 docs not then recur, 
is to suppose contradictorily that in the second case the state 
of affairs in question is, to that extent at least, different from 

The fact that causality is defined in terms of a single case of 
sequence (of the type specified above) entails that causal laws 
are causal not because they are laws (since some laws, to 

Determinism, Freedom and Responsibility / 165 

wit, some empirical regularities, are not causal) but because 
they are generalizations from cases each of which was in its 
own individual right a case of causation; if two or more se- 
quences of the type specified resemble one another in that, 
and only in that, in each of them the state of affairs is of a 
certain kind S, the cause of a certain kind C, and the effect 
of a certain kind E, then the "method of single agreement," 
employed as a method of generalization by abstraction, war- 
rants the generalization that in any state of affairs of kind S, 
an only change of kind C immediately causes a single change 
of kind E. 

d. The foregoing analysis of causality makes evident that 
the canon of the so-called "method of single difference" is a 
description of the causality relation itself, not of a relation 
other than causality, constituting only a sign of the presence 
of causality. That is, the "method of single difference" is a 
method only in the strained sense in which the description or 
photograph of a person can be said to be a method by which 
to identify him if one happens to meet him. Causality is, and 
is nothing but, the relation between S, C, and E described in 
what precedes. It constitutes etiological sufficiency of C in 5 
to E in S, and conversely, etiological necessitation of £ in 5 
by C in 5. 

e. From this analysis of causality it follows analytically 
that every event has a cause and an effect. For, given any state 
of affairs S and any change E that is at its time the only 
change in S, there is always some immediately anterior change 
in S that qualifies as cause of £ in 5, i.e., that is the only 
change in S at its time. This follows from the fact that without 
some change there is no time; and hence that to suppose 
either that S endured or that S changed prior to E is to sup- 
pose that some sort of "clock" was "ticking" then. And should 
no other change than the "ticking" of that "clock" have oc- 
curred in S prior to E, then the "ticking" itself would qualify 
as cause of E under the definition. 

For a corresponding reason any change C in any S that is 
the only change in S at its time causes some effect E in S. 
Also, the specification that C and E be the only two changes 
in S makes it superfluous to specify that C and E are con- 
tiguous in time. Their contiguity is entailed by the specifica- 
tion that they are the only two changes in S, since, if time 
elapsed, i.e., if any "clock" were "ticking," between C and E, 
its "ticks" would constitute changes in S additional to C and 

166 / Determinism and Freedom 

/. To these remarks it should be added that in the case of 
causality as in that of sincerity or divinity or gravitation, etc., 
to define its nature is one task; and to decide whether some- 
thing concrete — in the case of causality, a concrete relation 
that we observe — is really an instance of what the definition 
specifies is quite another task and one that, theoretically, is 
never performed with complete certainty. The acceptability or 
nonacceptabUity of the decision in a given case turns on 
pragmatic considerations, just as the answers to the question 
whether the weight of a given book is exactly the same as, or 
is a trifle more or a trifle less than, that of the standard pound 
— i.e., of the piece of metal whose weight is 1 lb. by defini- 
tion — turns on the purpose that governs at the time. If one's 
purpose is to maU the book, then the scale at the post oflBce, 
and the clerk's reading of what it marks, are authoritative. 

On the other hand, if in the attempt to identify empirically 
instances of what a definition defines, all pragmatic concerns 
are put aside, then one automatically rules out all possibility 
of success; for some pragmatic concern is the only thing that 
gives any empirical meaning to the question whether a pro- 
posed operation of identification and a proposed criterion of 
the success of the operation are absurd or on the contrary 

.' g. The conclusion, then, of the present section is that de- 
terminism, in the sense that every event has some cause and 
some effect, is analytically true. This, however, does not at 
all entail that every event is completely and certainly pre- 
dictable even theoretically, i.e., even on the supposition of 
exact and exhaustive knowledge of the past history of the 
universe; for complete and certain prediction would be pos- 
sible only on the basis of strict sameness of present and past 
data, whereas what we actually get is only similarity in vary- 
ing degrees. At all times in the history of the world, an 
element of novelty, whether great or small, is present and 
accounts for what has been called the emergence of such 
novelties as "life" and "mind"; which, because novel, i.e., 
unprecedented, were inherently unpredictable. 

To designate the sense of "determinism" considered in this 
section, which entails that universality of causation is an- 
alytically true and yet which has room for the occurrence of 
novel and therefore unpredictable "emergents," we may adopt 
the name by which the late biologist H. S. Jennings referred 
to his own conception of determinism, to wit, "radically 
experimental determinism.'^,, 

Determinism, Freedom and Responsibility / 167 

6. Freedom. Freedom is more often conceived negatively, 
i.e., in terms of indeterminism or of exception to determin- 
ism, than in terms of a positive analysis. The same is true of 
the terms chance and contingency. 

a. What has been said up to this point will have made clear 
that to say of a given event — whether physical or mental — 
that it was "free," or more or less synonj^nously, that it was 
"contingent" or "a matter of chance," may mean different 
things. For example, it may mean (1) that the event was 
practically unpredictable, i.e., unpredictable on the basis of 
the data we had or could get at the time; or (2) that it was 
unpredictable even theoretically, for one or another of the 
reasons mentioned in our critique of Laplace-type determin- 
ism; or (3) that it had no cause; or (4) that it was not 
logically necessary, i.e., that supposition of the event's non- 
occurrence, or of its having been more or less different from 
what it was, implies no contradiction. And of course, so long 
as these diverse meanings of the term are not distinguished 
in discussions of "freedom," no possibility exists of really 
establishing anything. 

Anyway, none of these four senses seem to correspond to 
the meaning "free" is intended to have in the instances people 
commonly offer when asked to give examples of the exercise 
of that "free wUl" they believe they have; for they usually 
offer illustrations such as that, at the moment, they are free 
to raise their arm, or not, as they will; or that, when offered a 
choice of, say, apple pie or cherry pie, they are free to choose 
the one they prefer. An analysis of the meaning of "freedom" 
as used on these and similar occasions is what I now submit. 

b. That a person P, under circumstances K, "can," or 
synonymously "is free to," do A or not to do it means that 
volition (or, pace Professor Ryle, "decision") by P io do A 
or not do A, would, in those circumstances, be sufficient to 
cause A to occur or not to occur. And if it should be objected 
that this is only freedom to act, but not freedom to will, then 
the reply is that that analysis applies whether ^4 is a bodily 
act or itself an act of will; that is, it applies irrespective of 
whether P's present decision is, say, to raise his arm, or 
whether his present decision is, perhaps, to decide tomorrow 
whether to buy a house or rent one. , 

c. That under the circumstances that obtained P was, in 
the sense just stated, free to do or not do A does not presup- 
pose that his decision had no motive or other cause; nor does 
the fact that neither he nor anyone else could have on that 

168 / Determinism and Freedom 

occasion predicted what his decision would be constitute any 
evidence that it had no cause. 

d. Nor does the fact that his decision, like any other event, 
had some cause — causation, as defined in Section 5b, is uni- 
versal — mean that his decision was not free but compelled; 
for a decision one is caused to make is not describable as 
"compelled" unless it is a decision to do something to which 
one is averse, even if less averse than to the alternatives then 
open to choice. The decision to hand over one's money to the 
holdup man who confronts one with the choice "Your money 
or your life" is not made freely but under compulsion; 
whereas the decision to choose, say, apple pie rather than 
cherry pie in the restaurant is — assuming that one likes apple 
pie — an example of what is called a free decision. 
,- Thus the assumption that tacitly underlies most discussions 
of "free will" and determinism — the assumption, namely, of 
. incompatibility between, on the one hand, determinism in 
' the sense of universality of causation and, on the other, free- 
dom in the sense in which man certainly does have freedom 
in many cases — is an altogether erroneous assumption. It 
arises from failure to analyze the meaning that the terms in 
question have in the specific contexts in which they are em- 

7. Determinism and moral responsibility. The final ques- 
tion to consider is what determinism, in the sense that every 
event has some cause and some effect, entails concerning 
moral responsibility or lack of it. 

a. It is essential here to distinguish between moral responsi- 
bility and the legal responsibility that in practice may or may 
not go with it. Also, to distinguish between either moral or 
legal responsibility and merely etiological responsibility, which 
consists simply in the fact that our acts, besides the effects 
they aim at, have many others of which we are not aware, 
and which may or may not harmonize with our intention. 

b. That a person P is now morally responsible for his vol- 
untary acts — or was not so but can now be made morally 
responsible for his future ones — means simply that to praise 
or blame him or otherwise reward or punish him for some 
thing he now does or did will tend to cause him to act, or 
tend to inhibit him from acting, in a similar manner on simi- 
lar future occasions. 

c. Hence, that a person P is not now morally responsible 
for what he voluntarily does or did means that praise or 
blame, or other forms of reward or pxmishment, would have 

Determinism, Freedom and Responsibility / 169 

no such effect on him. In others words, it means that he is 
not now capable of moral education, and hence that what he 
needs is psychiatric treatment. In such a case to inflict punish- 
ment for a morally wrong act is either simply stupid or 
sadistic or both. 

d. This analysis of what constitutes "moral" responsibility 
entails that such responsibility not only is not incompatible 
with determinism, but on the contrary presupposes determin- 
ism. In other words, that an agent is morally responsible pre- 
supposes that an awareness on his part that something he 
contemplates doing would be morally wrong or, as the case 
may be, morally right (his notion of what constitutes moral 
lightness or wrongness is irrelevant here) will, other motives 
being equal, cause him to refrain from acting, or on the con- 
trary cause him to act. Without such causation there is no 
moral responsibility. 

©r 6 

Some Hefiecfaons en "The Case 
for Determinism" 

Carl G. Hempel, PriBceton University 

1. On defining determinism. There appears to be a dis- 
crepancy between two characterizations of determinism that 
Professor Blanshard offers at the beginning of his admirably 
lucid and stimulating paper. In the third paragraph determin- 
ism is defined as the view that every event A has at least one 
temporally later necessary consequent B. According to this 
view, then, the cause ^ is a sufficient condition of the effect B; 
and determinism asserts that every event causes some (later) 
event. But clearly this assertion is by no means equivalent to 
the thesis that every event is caused by some (earlier) event, 
or briefly that "ail events are caused" — a. formulation by 
which Mr. Blanshard characterizes determinism in the second 
paragraph of his essay. 

Evidently it is the latter assertion that gives significance to 
the problem of free choice, the central topic in Mr. Blan- 
shard's discussion. For the question at issue is whether all 
events, including human acts of choice, are caused by ante- 
cedent events — not whether they in turn have certain neces- 
sary consequents. And indeed a deterministic thesis to the 
effect that every event causes some later events would be 
quite compatible with the "uncaused" occurrence of various 
phenomena, such as, perhaps, the spontaneous creation of 
(hydrogen atoms envisaged by some contemporary cosmolo- 
\ gists. Mr. Blanshard's thesis of determinism will therefore be 
construed here as asserting that for every event B there exists 
'an antecedent event A that is a sufficient condition for the 
ipccurrence of B. 

Mr. Blanshard uses the phrase "given A, B must occur" 
as a general characterization of the relation that obtains be- 
tween an event A and a later event B ii A is a sufficient con- 
dition, or cause, of B. As to the meaning of that "must," he 
is willing to let us make our own choice among a logical 
"must," a physical or metaphysical one, and a "must" that 
simply means universal factual association. In the brief space 


Some Reflections on "The Case for Determinism" / 171 

of his paper Mr. Blanshard certainly could not be expected 
to give a detailed analysis of the concept in question — this 
would have made it necessary, for example, to tackle the 
hornets' nest of problems surrounding the counterfactual 
conditional. But I think there is reason to feel uneasy at the 
sweeping claims of a determinism that is said to hold true 
equally for all the different interpretations of "must" that Mr. 
Blanshard allows us here. 

Choosing the logical "must," for example, we obtain the 
thesis that for any event B occurring at some time t^, there is 
an event A at an earlier time i^, such that the occurrence of 
A at t^ is a logically sufficient condition for the occurrence of 
B at tj. But this is trivially true in all cases. For example, let 
the occurrence of B at t,^ consist in the onset of rain on the 
campus of Yale University at noon of a certain day, and let t^ 
be 11:00 a.m. of the same day. Then, to show that the deter- 
ministic thesis with the logical "must" is satisfied, it suffices 
to choose for A the state of affairs that consists in the condi- 
tion of the Yale campus exactly one hour before the onset of 
a rainfall. To be sure, we may not be able to ascertain that A 
prevailed at /„ until the occurrence of B zi t^, but this is irrele- 
vant to the point to be proved, namely that there is in fact a 
state of affairs A at t^ that is logically sufficient for the 
occurrence of B at t^. 

The preceding argument shows, I think, that the determin- 
istic thesis with its "must" construed as expressing logical 
necessity is of no significance for the problem of free choice: 
the existence of an earlier state of affairs that is a logically 
sufficient condition for a given act of choice surely does not 
mean that the act is determined in any sense that would cast 
doubt on the freedom of choice. 

I am not clear what a metaphysical construction of "must" 
might come to, but I should like to add a few words con- 
cerning the interpretation of "must" by reference to physical 
— or, more generally, empirical — laws. On this interpretation 
Mr. Blanshard's deterministic thesis asserts that there exists 
a set of laws such that every event 5 is a consequent, accord- 
ing to those laws, of some preceding event A. But this state- 
ment, again, is always true in a trivial manner. For no matter 
what the sequence of events in the universe may be, it can 
always be represented as a mathematical function of time; 
and this function provides the requisite law. Suppose, for 
example, that we are interested only in the changes of tem- 
perature and color that occurred in the course of the history 

172 / Determinism and Freedom 

of the universe at a given place. The temperature at any time 
may be measured on the Kelvin scale and represented by a 
real number; the color can be similarly expressed by means 
of a number indicating a location in the color scale. The tem- 
poral succession of temperatures and colors at the given place 
now corresponds to an assignment to each value of the time 
variable of one temperature nimiber and one color number. 
This determines two mathematical functions, which trivially 
furnish laws governing the chages of temperature and color at 
the given place. The argument can now be extended to apply 
to the changes anj^where in the universe of temperature, 
color, and any other characteristic. Thus the course of the 
universe is governed by functional laws (which may, however, 
be so complex as to be beyond the reach of scientific dis- 
covery) , and the deterministic thesis with its "must" construed 
in terms of empirical laws is true.^ In fact, the laws here 
referred to are so strong that every event is determined by 
the laws alone, without the need of recourse to antecedent 

The argument here outlined shows that determinism in the 
form under discussion is trivially true; thus it can have no 
greater significance for the freedom of choice than the truth 
of the deterministic thesis with its "must" construed as repre- 
senting logical necessity. 

Nor can the truth of determinism on the basis of this con- 
struction of "must" cheer the empirical scientist, for he is 
interested in the possibility of prediction; and this requires 
the determination by law of events by eariler ones in a 
stronger sense than that so far considered: the laws in ques- 
tion have to be of a sufficiently simple kind to permit of 
discovery and subsequent predictive application by himian 
beings. (Causal laws in the technical sense of physics are 

^ The basic idea of this argument is set forth by Bertrand Russell in his 
essay "On the Notion of Cause," which is reprinted in his book Mysticism 
and Logic (London, 1921). A similar consideration is presented in Moritz 
Schlick's essay "Causality in Everyday Life and in Recent Science" (reprinted 
in H. Feigl and W. Sellars, eds.. Readings in Philosophical Analysis [New 
York, 1949], pp. 515£E.) Russell's idea is discussed also in Philip Frank's 
Philosophy of Science (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1957), which, in chaps, 
xi and xii, presents an illuminating analysis of the concepts of causality and 

The argument presented above calls for one qualifying remark, however. 
Not aU functions of time can be represented by analytic mathematical expres- 
sions, nor even by symbolic expressions of finite length in a language using a 
finite or denumerably infinite set of different basic symbols. Thus, not all 
possible laws can be expressed in the language of science, just as not all real 
numbers can be represented by numerical expressions. 

Some Reflertions on "The Case for Determinism" / 173 

required to satisfy certain conditions as to mathematical 
form, 2 but these need not be considered here.) 

On this interpretation of "must" Mr. Blanshard's thesis is 
by no means trivial. In fact, despite the vagueness introduced 
by the requirement of formal simplicity for the laws, it makes 
an extremely strong and sweeping assertion. And I would sug- 
gest that the objections to determinism that Mr. Blanshard 
examines in his paper be construed as concerning this strong 
thesis. (In fact, the objections based on the character of 
quantum physics refer to the even stronger thesis of universal 
causality in the technical sense of physics.) 

2. On the relevance of introspective evidence to determin- 
ism. As for the first objection to determinism, which refers to 
a stubborn feeling of freedom of choice, I fully agree with 
Mr. Blanshard that it cannot count as evidence against deter- 
minism, for this kind of feeling can surely be deceptive. In- 
deed I think that the feeling is irrelevant to the question of 
causal determination. For in order to decide whether a given 
act of choice is causally determined we have to judge whether 
there is an antecedent event with which the choice is con- 
nected by a general law of simple form. And surely the data 
obtainable by introspection, especially the "stubborn feeling 
of freedom," have no bearing on this question. The timid man 
in a hypnotist's audience, for example, who gets up to make 
a speech, may truthfully protest a feeling of complete free- 
dom in choosing to do so: this is quite compatible with the 
possibility that his choice was causally determined (via gen- 
eral laws concerning the effects of hypnosis) by the instruc- 
tions he received earlier under hypnosis. 

But it seems to me that in his defense of determinism Mr. 
Blanshard makes use of the very same kind of argument that 
he rightly rejects when it is employed by indeterminists. The 
use of introspection illustrated by Galton's case surely is no 
more suited to establishing the existence of antecedent con- 
straints determining choices according to general laws than 
the feeling of freedom invoked by the indeterminists is suited 
to establishing the opposite. A person's introspective reflection 
on the motives that might have determined a certain action 
of his can yield quite deceptive results; surely it is not suited 
to establishing the existence of general laws linking the ad- 
duced motives to the action under scrutiny. 

' For a discussion of these conditions, see, for example, H. Margenau, 
The Nature of Physical Reality (New York, 1950), chap, xix, and Frank, 
op. clt., chaps, xi and xil. 

174 / Determinism and Freedom 

3. On levels of causation. In his outline of a nonmechani- 
cal kind of determinism for psychological occurrences, Mr. 
Blanshard refers to aesthetic, logical, and moral constraints as 
determining factors. Now, it would be incompatible with his 
view of causation to construe these constraints as abstract 
aesthetic ideals, logical truths, and moral principles; for these 
lack the temporal character that Mr. Blanshard's definition of 
determinism requires of all causal factors. To meet this re- 
quirement we shall have to construe the constraints in ques- 
tion as awareness and espousal by a given human agent of 
the ideas or ideals in question. In explaining the work of a 
given painter by reference to certain aesthetic ideals, for 
example, we have to construe the constraining antecedent 
factor as the disposition of the painter to conform to those 

There is another consideration that lends support to this 
way of looking at the matter. The attribution of a causal role 
to timeless ideals and relations not only violates Mr. Blan- 
shard's initial definition of causal determinism: it seem to me 
an inherently obscure idea. Surely Mr. Blanshard must be 
using a metaphor — and I think a misleading one — when he 
speaks of an abstract, nontemporal ideal as getting hold of 
an artist and molding his work, or of a timeless relation serv- 
ing as the condition of a temporal passage. Those timeless 
entities cannot be held to exert a xmiversal causal influence, 
or else there would be no logical or mathematical errors, no 
immoral acts. And indeed Mr. Blanshard notes explicitly that 
man is not always guided by the proper ideals. Thus how a 
given person is going to act will be determined, not by an 
ideal standard pertinent to the action, but rather by whether 
or not the agent has a certain disposition, namely that of 
acting in accordance with the standard. For example, so far 
as honesty can be said to have been a causal determinant of 
George Washington's confessing about the cherry tree, it 
suffices to describe this factor as Washington's disposition to 
act honestly, and it would be an unnecesary, and indeed very 
risky, hypostatization to attribute his confession to the super- 
venience, from a higher causal level, of the timeless moral 
ideal of honesty. 

Yet this avoidance of an appeal to causal determinants of 
a higher order involves no "mechanistic" or "materialistic" 
assumptions: in particular, it does not presuppose the reduci- 
bility of psychology to physics and chemistry; that is, the 
possibility of fully describing all psychological events in 

Some Reflections on "The Case for Determinism" / 175 

physicochemical terms or the possibility of explaining them 
by means of physicochemical laws. 

Nor, of course, does the viewpoint here suggested imply 
that all psychological phenomena are causally determined 
either by dispositions of the kind just mentioned or by other 
factors. In fact, as was pointed out at the end of Section 1, 
above, the thesis of universal determinism is inherently vague; 
it is not as clear and precise an assertion as, say, a law of 
physics. At the same time, the thesis makes a tremendously 
stronger claim than a physical law, for it asserts the existence 
of a comprehensive set of laws suflScient to determine every 
event in the world of our experience. And the extent to which 
this claim is correct cannot be discovered by philosophical 
reasoning alone, nor by reference to the crude data provided 
by everyday experience or introspection: it has to be ascer- 
tained by means of rigorous and extensive scientific research. 

Chapter 7 

Some Further Reflections on 
Moral Responsibility 

Howard W. Hintz, Brooklyn College 

Professor Hospers' teiesis (like Professor Edwards') denies 
the existence of moral responsibility in any sense in which an 
/ individual can be held finally accountable or answerable for 
his acts. Thus, by the analysis of the term and concept of 
responsibility attempted by Edwards and Hospers, "responsi- 
bility" is relegated to the status of a pragmatic device by 
which a person may by some sort of persuasion, admonition, 
threat, punishment, or other social pressure be induced to 
7^ pursue a course of behavior consonant with the norms ap- 
proved and established by a given culture group. 

What I want particularly to do in this brief criticism is not 
categorically to deny the validity of the Edwards-Hospers 
thesis but to point out what I believe its necessary corollaries 
and implications as far as ethical considerations are con- 
cerned. Thus I do not see how we can escape the conclusion 
that this thesis destroys the foundations of all prescriptive 
ethics except on the arbitrary-power level. If, as suggested 
above, the possibility of establishing moral values and stand- 
ards is removed, then the basis of meaningful and purposeful 
living, of human dignity, and ultimately of civilized society 
itself is undermined. It should be further noted that the thesis 
is not only deterministic (despite Hospers' denial of the rele- 
vance of the determinism issue) but fatalistic, no matter how 
much the fact may be disguised. 

Neither the Edwards-Hospers' analysis nor any other deter- 
ministic explanation has yet succeded in refuting the fact that 
aU individuals above the idiot level possess in some sense, 
however limited by internal or external compulsions, the 
power of choice, the power to decide and to select among a 
given set of alternatives, or, to follow G. E. Moore, the 
ability to say meaningfully, after certain types of choices have 
been made, "I could have chosen or acted differently." The 
inescapable truth of this is repeatedly demonstrated by the 
fact that on reflection and a subsequent awareness of the con- 
sequences of a choice, all of us, when a similar set of altema- 


Some Further Reflections on Moral Responsibility / 177 

tives is presented to us a second or third time, choose dififer- 
ently because we have been dissatisfied with the consequences 
of the former choice. 

The attempt to invalidate freedom and power of choice on 
the grounds that choices are attributable to underlying desires, 
to previous conditioning, and to basic qualities of character 
is, it seems to me, highly factitious. It is saying nothing more 
than that a cause and effect relationship prevails in the phe- 
nomena of human behavior as it does in other natural 
phenomena; it is simply to assert the principle of causality. 
But rather than vitiating the meaningfulness of discriminating 
choices and acts of will, causality itself is a primary condition 
of meaningful choice. 

Is there any possible way — within the framework of a 
causal determinism rooted in the obvious psychological and 
naturalistic facts of human experience as outlined by Edwards 
and Hospers — in which we can retrieve a modicum of indi- 
vidual moral responsibility and hence of human dignity? I 
believe it is not only possible but essential that we do so by 
recourse to the familiar principle (constantly stressed by 
John Dewey) that each man is responsible for making the 
best choice available to hun within the scope of his limitations 
and his powers. That these limitations and powers differ 
widely among men no one will deny. But to the extent that an 
individual acts or fails to act responsibly within the range of 
his capacities, whatever they may be, to that extent he is 
praiseworthy or blameworthy. It is only because this principle 
is universally recognized in everyday experience and practice 
that any tj^e of social order is even possible. 
Two additional points should be emphasized: 

1. Hospers' thesis not only destroys moral responsibility: it' 
also destroys all rationality in human experience. If we ac- 
cept the proposition that a man acts only as previous deter- 
mining and conditioning factors compel him to act, then I 
submit that the function and office of reasoning have been 
utterly destroyed, for the very question whether a man rea- 
sons or not is then completely dependent on the allegedly for- 
tuitous and contingent factors that shaped his nature and 
character. His reasoning or nonreasoning then becomes pure ; 
accident and is therefore, by definition, removed from the 
area of rational choice. I do not see how Hospers can escape 
the logical necessity of this conclusion. ^ 

2. However emphatically Hospers may deny the relevance 
to his argument of the determinism-indeterminism issue, his 

178 / Determinism and Freedom 

thesis is not only deterministic: it is wholly fatalistic. My quar- 
rel is not with determinism — at least in some of its forms — 
but with Hospers' denial of the relevance of his thesis to the 
determinism issue. How can the logic of Hospers' argument 
possibly escape the ultimate assertion of fatalism? If every- 
thing that a man chooses or decides or does — including the 
decisions he makes after reflection and deliberation — is en- 
tirely the result of the conditioning factors of his heredity and 
his environment, then what conceivable area of what we have 
traditionally called moral choice has not been predetermined? 
Wherein, then, does Hospers' position differ fundamentally 
from that of Jonathan Edwards, who maintained that a man 
may choose what he wills to do but that he has no choice 
about what he wills to choose? In his own explication of pre- 
determinism and predestination Jonathan Edwards was, as has 
long been recognized, strictly logical, and accepted, however 
reluctantly, all the implications of his logical consistency. Is 
Hospers, I wonder, willing to do the same? Jonathan Edwards 
finally was driven by his own rigorous logic to concede that 
free will was an illusion. Is Hospers, with equal logical con- 
sistency, willing to admit the same? 

Neither can I recognize the validity of the distinction Hos- 
pers makes between the so-called upper and lower levels of 
responsibility — which presumably is a distinction between de- 
sires on the one hand and specific choices and actions on the 
other. On the upper level, says Hospers, will, choice, and re- 
sponsibihty are meaningful; on the lower level of desires they 
are not. But if my underlying desires are the wellspring of my 
volitions and my actions, how can the upper level of respon- 
sibility be disengaged from the lower level? In point of fact the 
two levels are constantly interacting — so that the choices I 
make and the acts I perform today on an upper-level volitional 
basis affect in large measure the desires I shall have tomorrow. 
At this juncture the two levels would seem to merge indistin- 
guishably. The individual choices of the present are not only 
causative agents of future events and future acts: they are 
also generating and modifying agents of new desires and al- 
tered character structures. 

It is now widely recognized among moral philosophers that, 
no matter how irrefutable the logic of absolute psychological 
or naturalistic determinism may be, sane and rational human 
beings in order to retain their sanity, their rationality, and 
their purposefulness in living still stubbornly insist on decid- 
ing, choosing, and acting as though they were autonomous, 

Some Further Reflections on Moral Responsibility / 179 

dignified, and free individuals. This is the phenomenon, above 
all, that still needs to be explained, and — therein lies the crux 
of my argument — the explanation is not to be found in the 
Edwards-Hospers thesis. I suspect that the most disturbing 
and serious weakness of this thesis lies in the fact that it is 
based on a groundwork of completely unproved and possibly 
unprovable assumptions. If it represents a form of determin- 
ism, as I have insisted, it is not a scientific determinism, but a 
rationalistic determinism differing in no essential respects 
from Calvanistic fatalism as far as its hypothetical assumptions 
and practical implications are concerned. Hospers is right in 
divorcing his thesis from the conclusion of empiricists like 
Hume, Mill, and Schlick. There is indeed nothing empirical 
about his position. -^ 

For the fact is that scientifically and empirically we are at 
the present moment far from having a complete knowledge of 
the meaning and dimensions of human character structure, of 
the complexity of the forces that create, modify, or alter this 
structure or, most significantly, of the degree to which the 
human organism contains within itself the autonomous power 
to alter, to originate, to create, and thus to overcome previous 
conditioning. It has yet to be demonstrated, empirically and 
scientifically, that acts of will, choices and decisions, and new 
conditioning forces may not radically alter character structure 

We might well be reminded at this point of Whitehead's 
conception of origination and creativity as the distinguishing 
marks of an "actual entity" or of the life principle itself. 

Chapter 8 


Sidney Hook, New York University 

If the criterion of a necessary statement is that its denial is 
self-contradictory, then none but logical statements or those 
declared true in virtue of their form alone are strictly neces- 
sary. "Every effect has a cause" is a necessary statement. 
"Every event has a cause" and "Every event is a cause of an- 
other event" are not necessary statements. If determinism is 
^ ' the belief that all events have causes and are themselves causes 
■p^ of other events, its denial is not self-contradictory. The only 
, evidence we can have for belief in the validity of determinism 
ij^ empirical: the success of our predictions. 

Nonetheless, "predictability" and "determinism" are not by 
any means interchangeable terms although they are related. 
Indeterminism entails unpredictability in respect to a char- 
acter or event assumed to be undetermined. In a chance world 
God might be able to foresee any or all specific, fortuitous 
events; but if successful guesses are ruled out as predictions, 
men in such a world could make no genuine predictions. Un- 
predictability, however, does not entail indeterminism, since 
it is compatible with the existence of a theoretically deter- 
mined system of such vast complexity that it is beyond human 
power to make correct predictions. This raises a problem that 
I attempted in vain to get the speakers and participants in the 
Institute to address themselves to: viz.. What is the pragmatic 
' difference between asserting that a system or state of affairs 
^: is undetermined and asserting that the system is so complexly 
^l^etermined that no predictions can be reliably made? 

If one must choose between these two assertions, it is reason- 
able to defend the assertion that the apparently undetermined 
system is actually a complexly determined one on heuristic 
grounds. If we act on the assumption that a system is deter- 
mined, then it is more likely that we shall discover laws and 
make successful predictions about the future than if we as- 
sume that chance reigns. But can anything more than this be 


Necessity, Indeterminism, and Sentimentalism / 181 

said for the belief in determinism? It does not carry us beyond 
Peirce's observation that determinism is a postulate, and a 
postulate is something we hope is true. Obviously, to say that 
all events are caused, that determinism holds not only in this 
or that area, but universally, is always to say more than we 
definitely know at any actual time, even if we have a right to 
say it — a right that is contested by scientists who assert that 
the advance of scientific knowledge no longer depends on it in 
every domain. We can definitely reject indeterminism as false 
if it asserts that nothing is determined, because we know that 
some things are; but if it asserts merely that not everything is 
determined, it cannot be rejected out of hand. The issue must 
be joined in the field where the sway of determinism is dis- 
puted. Operationally, however, the only evidence one can 
have for the belief that a state of affairs is determined, as dis- 
tinct from the reasonableness of the hope and faith that it is, 
is measured by the degree to which we can control, predict, 
construct, and, to use Professor Black's phrase, "make things 

If I understand Professor Blanshard, he overstates the case 
for determinism by interpreting causality in the realm of cog- 
nitive mental events, with some overtones that in the end this 
is true for aU events, as a relation of necessity. He assimilates, 
although he does not completely identify, the necessities of 
aesthetic and moral thinking to logical thinking, which itself is 
partly under the constraint of objective logical necessity in 
the subject matter thought about. I see no valid reason for in- 
terpreting determinism in this way when applied to thinking 
in any or all of its forms. According to his conception of 
determinism, an event, "thinking," whether it is thinking 
about music or mathematics or anything at all, is said to be 
determined if some other event, or set of events, is a sufficient 
condition of its occurrence. The same is true whether the 
event in question is "dreaming" or "hoping," "creating" or 
"deducing." It still remains true whether the event is "think- 
ing correctly" or "thinking incorrectly." If determinism is 
valid as applied to the realm of mind, an incorrect answer to 
any question is just as much determined, just as "necessary" 
in Professor Blanshard's sense, as a correct answer. This does 
not wipe out or call into question in any way the difference 
between a correct and an incorrect answer. It indicates only 
that what makes the difference between the objectively correct 
and objectively incorrect answer, especially if interpreted as 
the enduring presence of objective, timeless truths, is irrele- 

182 / Determinism and Freedom 

vant in answering the question whether, given the mental 
event B, whatever its character, true or false etc., there exists 
another event, or set of events. A, such that y4 is a sufficient 
condition of B. If over and above ^4, it is necessary to invoke 
the compulsion of timeless truths to explain B when B con- 
sists in the thinking of a correct answer, why is it not neces- 
sary to invoke the compulsion of timeless errors or falsities to 
explain B when B consists in the thinking of an incorrect 

Empirically I am not at all convinced that the musician, 
for example, of whom Professor Blanshard speaks, who adds 
one bar to another in the process of composition always does 
so because he feels that it is an aesthetically required neces- 
sity, and that his feeling so is either a necessary or sufficient 
condition for the mental event that consists in the composing 
of the bar. He must sound the bar before he can judge or 
feel whether it is aesthetically required. If it is determined it 
must be determined by a previous event. A musician might 
have the feeling of aesthetic necessity for any one or even 
a number of quite different ways of completing a musical 
phrase, and a critic might say that the musician was mistaken 
in his judgment or feeling about each variant. In general, 
whether anything is required in a creation or not cannot be 
ascertained independently of a purpose, aim, or goal — 
whether of artist, critic, or spectator. Once this is given, the 
question of what is required permits of an objective and rcla- 
j tive solution. We sometimes say that a goal, plan, or purpose 
! determines the occurrence of an event. But this is an ellipsis. 
It is the thought or desire of the goal, a psychic or physico- 
psychic event, that determines, if determinism operates in the 
realm of mind. 

There is one curious feature in Professor Blanshard's 
brilliant essay. He begins by denying that the content of con- 
sciousness, "the stubborn feeling" of being free and undeter- 
mined, is sufficient to disprove the fact of determinism. But 
before he concludes he cites with approval the plain man's 
stubborn feeling of absurdity or incredulity at the idea that 
the determinism to which he has no objections "as applied by 
physicists to atoms, by himself to machines, or by his doctor 
to his body," can be applied by anyone "to his reflection and 
will." No matter how strong the feeling, it seems to me no 
more decisive in assessing the validity of the claim that such 
a determinism can be applied to man than in appraising the 
claims of indeterminism. As evidence tWs feeling is not to be 

Necessity, Indeterminism, and Sentimentalism / 183 

ignored or dismissed; but it is less weighty than the "medical 
evidence" (I use the expression as a summary term for all 
the scientific evidence) that willing and reflecting, like all 
other mental processes, are in manifold ways, too numerous to 
mention here, dependent on the brain and other conditions 
of the human body and human society. Undoubtedly it goes 
beyond the evidence to say that all willing and reflecting are 
dependent on earlier events in the history of the acculturated 
organism that is man. But it is less unreasonable to believe it 
than any other alternative. We have more evidence for it to- 
day than a hundred years ago. If we have still more evidence 
for it a hundred years from now, it will be an even more 
reasonable belief, unless there is better evidence for some 
other alternative. 


Normally I should be reluctant to speak of the principle 
of indeterminacy in the presence of physicists, but having 
recently read what eminent physicists have written about 
philosophy I feel absolutely shameless. In addition, the inter- 
pretation of the principle of indeterminacy presented by both 
Professors Bridgman and Land6 obviously raises no specific 
questions in physics but treats of matters, as Professor Munitz 
points out, traditionally considered in the philosophy of sci- 
ence. I have no "emotional commitment" to the view that 
every individual event in the area investigated by quantum 
theor^ as well as in the macroscopic world is causally deter- 
mined. Nor do I regard the principle of causality as a logical 
principle applicable of necessity to everything. Even if it is 
considered a presupposition to understanding anything, it 
does not follow that everything can or will be understood. 
Since we did not create the world we ought to be able to 
recover from our surprise at its ways. So far as I can under- 
stand, no one challenges the truth of the experimental findings 
of the quantum physicist but only his way of talking about 
them. When he says that there is a pattern of statistical regu- 
larity for the swarm of haphazardly moving photons that 
enables us to make predictions about their aggregate behavior, 
there is no problem. When he says that the individual photon 
is not causally determined and that, by the very nature of 
our attempt to investigate and describe it, it cannot be, the 
bewilderment begins. In scientific inquiry the language of 
common sense is notoriously misleading and must often be 
abandoned in the interest of clarity, precision, and fruitful- 

184 / Determinism and Freedom 

ness. But sometimes there is a needless paradox-and-puzzle- 
making quality in the talk of physicists reporting or inter- 
preting their findings in common-sense terms. This was very 
fashionable in the early years of relativity theory. Assuming 
that the idiom of determinism is the language in which com- 
mon sense understands the behavior of things, must it neces- 
sarily be abandoned at some point in the study of micro- 
physical phenomena? I am quite willing to leave this question 
to the community of physicists, especially since new scientific 
knowledge is being won independently of the language habits 
and thought ways of plain men and professional philosophers. 
My doubts arise only when the quantum physicist offers an 
explanation and, far from insisting on the uniqueness of the 
microphysical situation, claims that it is familiar in ordinary 
situations in which until now there seemed no need to aban- 
don the concepts of causality and determinism. 

"It is to be expected," says Professor Bridgman, "that the 
roots of the difficulties revealed to us by quantum theory are 
already present in the sphere of ordinary life and should be 
discoverable by acute enough analysis." With this. Professor 
Land6 cordially agrees. The two classes of phenomena in 
ordinary life that presumably illustrate in an analogical way 
the principle of indeterminacy are (1) games of chance (of 
which Land6's game of balls dropped through a chute onto 
a knife edge may be considered an ideal case) or games of 
insurance in which, although statistical frequencies of mor- 
talities are predictable, individual deaths are not, and (2) 
measurement that "interferes" with the state of the physical 
situation investigated. 

1. I venture to suggest that if ordinary games of chance or 
insurance are the analogues of the principle of indeter- 
minacy, then no special language is required to describe the 
behavior of photons; nor is it necessary to abandon the prin- 
ciple of causality. In a clear and legitimate sense it is possible 
for the insurance actuary to say that, although his knowledge 
of statistical regularities does not enable him to predict on 
the basis of this kind of data whether and when any indi- 
vidual, X, wiU die, it would be the sheerest dogmatism to assert 
that no matter what other data were available to a physician 
or biologist such a prediction could not be made. For the fact 
is that sometimes such predictions are made with remarkable 
accuracy, and there is every reason to believe that their ac- 
curacy will increase. Similarly, if the values of the different 
variables that aflfect the fall of a particular ball were known, 

Necessity, Indetenninisin, and Sentimentalism / 185 

the laws of classical mechanics could supply a reliable an- 
swer as to where a particular ball would fall. It may be 
difficult to discover the values of some of these variables, but 
the difficulty is not of the kind that makes it impossible to 
specify simultaneously the position and velocity of a sub- 
atomic particle. For in learning the values of some of the 
variables affecting the fall of the ball we are not thereby of 
necessity precluded from learning the values of the other 
variables, as is allegedly the case with subatomic particles. 

Professor Land6 retorts that as far as his illustration of the 
falling balls is concerned this type of criticism is only a back- 
handed way of recognizing randomness and the absence of 
causality by pushing it farther back. Once "irreducible ran- 
dom" is accepted, he tells us, it is a comparatively minor 
matter whether "(c) each new experiment constitutes a new 
game of chance (as quantum theory maintains), or (b) 
random was set up once, a long or infinite time ago, and 
random distributions observed at present are but the deter- 
ministic effects of that one initial 'shuffling of the cards' (as 
classical statistical mechanics maintains)." 

This seems to me to assume that in a deterministic system 
everything is to be explained. But a deterministic system is 
one whose state at any future time we can predict if the initial 
conditions and its laws are known. It is not the less deter- 
mined because we cannot derive the initial conditions and 
laws from some other system. Suppose we could: the same 
thing would hold for that system. Any "basic and irreducible" 
set of initial conditions set up "a long or infinite time ago" 
would be a "random" distribution. What would be an "un- 
random" distribution? Something that could be derived from 
a previous distribution? If so, then the term "random" is 
actually being used synonymously with "underivcd" by Pro- 
fessor Land6. Unless I radically misunderstand him, all he is 
really calling attention to is the fact that every determined 
system must start from some initial conditions of material 
distribution before our laws can be used to make specific 
predictions. This is a logical truth about the nature of any 
material system: some data must at some p>oint be given as 
basic and irreducible. It is not a discovery but a tautology. If 
it constituted an objection to the possibility of "a deterministic 
system," the expression would be meaningless. Even a mathe- 
matical system has some undefined terms and undemonstrable 

2. That the subject investigated is affected by the instru- 

186 / Determinism and Freedom 

ments and methods of investigation is an important point. I 
am in wholehearted agreement with Professor Bridgman 
about it. But its implication is — so it seems to me — to call 
into question not the principle of causality but the "spectator 
theory" of knowledge. Sometimes the interaction produced 
by the use of instruments and techniques makes it difficult 
to predict accurately the outcome of an investigation. Some- 
times, however, these reactions are foreseeable. A surgeon can 
allow for the effect of his probe or knife on the organism; a 
psychologist for the resistance his question arouses in his 
subject; a public opinion expert, for the effect of the publica- 
tion of his poll on behavior at the election poUs. If the extent 
to which the immersion of a thermometer in a solution raises 
the temperature of the solution is not detectable at present, 
this by itself is not a sufficient reason to assert that it wiU 
always remain undetectable. 

I am prepared to grant that every act of inquiry into 
matters of fact involves the use of our body and its organs as 
instruments, and that the process of inquiry is one in which 
some actual change in the structure of the situation to be 
known takes place. To the extent that this is true, it is true 
whether the objects investigated are large or small. I can 
see that sometimes it makes sense to say that "a small instru- 
ment can find out more about a large object than a large 
instrument can find out about a small object." But I can see 
that sometimes the contrary makes sense too: for example, 
when we bring to bear on a microcellular organism a high- 
powered microscope that magnifies it many times over. What 
could we learn about such an organism with an instrument 
smaller than itself? Perhaps it is true that a large instrument 
produces greater changes in a small object than a small in- 
strument in a large object, but I should have imagined that 
not the size but the relevance and significance of the change is 
the point at issue where prediction is concerned. I therefore 
cannot see why it should make more sense to say, merely be- 
cause of the facts of instrumentation, that causality should 
fail for small objects than that it should fail for large, espe- 
cially since a large object can sometimes be considered an 
organized system of small objects. I could believe the contrary 
just as well. My only difficulty is that I cannot see any reason 
why we must believe one or the other, or change the idiom 
of our talk as we go from one to the other. I conclude, there- 
fore, with the observation that although "the Heisenberg un- 
certainty relation does not outrage my feeling of what makes 

Necessity, Indeterminism, and Sentimentalism / 187 

sense" I have not been convinced, by anything Professors 
Bridgman and Land6 have said about ordinary experience, 
that it is necessary to interpret the uncertainty relation as 
entailing a denial of the relation of causality. 


The fatal error in the papers of Professors Hospers and 
Edwards, as read, is that they alternate between two concep- 
tions of "moral responsibility" — one, a conception of moral 
responsibility as empty but meaningful, and the other as 
vacuous and meaningless. On the first conception, although it 
may be true in fact that no one is morally responsible, we can 
state the conditions under which one might be. We can differ- 
entiate between the two states. On the second, there are no 
possible conditions under which anyone can be declared 
"morally responsible." The expression has no intelligible op- 
posite and thus makes no sense. 

The force of most of their arguments, which gives them an 
air of high moral concern, is based on the assumption that 
under certain circumstances individuals are being improperly 
considered responsible. Hospers actually says that "frequently 
persons we think responsible are not properly to be called so," 
and Edwards implies the same thing. They explicitly appeal 
against the injustice of improperly blaming the morally in- 
nocent who, because their desires are determined, are the 
victims, not the agents, of misfortune. We eagerly await the 
description of the set of conditions under which an individual 
is properly held responsible, under which he is not a victim 
of circumstances. It then turns out that even if his desires 
were undetermined, even if circumstances were completely 
different, he would still not be responsible, would still be a 
morally innocent victim. The empty conception of moral re- 
sponsibility becomes completely vacuous. This makes the 
whole procedure of Professors Hospers and Edwards method- 
ologically self-defeating, and particularly their expressions 
of concern about the injustice of blaming the morally in- 
nocent. For to be morally innocent of having committed an 
evil deed entails that one is not responsible for its commission, 
and to be morally guilty entails that one is. // moral responsi- 
bility is a vacuous expression, then moral innocence and guilt 
are too. Were Hospers and Edwards consistent they could not 
plead for the innocent or condemn the guilty. Edwards in 
places suggests that a person would be responsible if he could 
ultimately and completely shape or choose his own character. 

188 / Determinism and Freedom 

But this is explaining an obscure notion by a still obscurer 
one. Since every decision to shape or choose one's character, 
to be responsible, must be one's own, and therefore already 
an indication of the kind of person one is, the notion that one 
can ultimately and completely shape or choose one's character 
is unintelligible. C. A. Campbell, to be sure, tries to distinguish 
between a choice that is the expression of a formed character, 
and therefore determined, and a choice of a self. But on 
Hospers' and Edwards' argument what is true of character 
must be true of self. Either the self has the power to mold 
character or it has not. In either case it cannot be held re- 
sponsible for having or not having such a native power. And 
the same is true if we bring in a Self to explain the powers 
of the self and a Great Self to explain the powers of the Self, 

It is true that the notion of moral responsibility is often 
ambiguous and not clearly defined in ordinary experience. But 
if we follow Professor Hart's illuminating procedure, we can 
recognize certain actions in which we clearly admit the pres- 
ence of excusing conditions — infancy, insanity, paralysis, 
duress, coercion, etc. — and actions in which we do not. We 
then try to formulate the principle we recognize in this dis- 
tinction and apply it to more complicated and borderline 
cases. We find that we tend to hold individuals responsible 
for their voluntary or uncoerced actions, for knowingly doing 
or not doing what it was in their power to do or leave undone. 
All these terms are vague and need further specification. 
There are difficulties in ascertaining in particular instances 
what it was in one's power to do or leave undone. Nonethe- 
less, no one can live in human society without learning to 
recognize the distinction between the actions he holds others 
and himself responsible for and the actions he does not. 

For all its vagueness there is more agreement about how 
the distinction is to be applied than about the grounds of the 
distinction. No one blames a crawling infant who overturns 
a kerosene stove that starts a fire. Almost everybody would 
blame a man who, normal in every other way and by all 
known tests, insures a house beyond its value and then sets 
fire to it without even giving its occupants a chance to escape. 
If we make a list of the circumstances behind actions for 
which we hold individuals responsible and those for which 
we do not, we shall find that as a ruje the first class consists 
of those in which evidence exists that praise and reward, 
blame and punishment, tend to influence the future conduct 

Necessity, Indetermlnism, and Sentimentalism / 189 

of those involved and/ or those tempted. This is not the whole 
story. Campbell objects ^ that animals are not held responsi- 
ble for their actions even though we can re-educate their 
desires and impulses by punishment. This is true, but it is 
also true that the higher the animal in the scale of intelligence, 
the more likely we are to blame it. If we believed that an 
axumal could think like a man we would blame it like a man. 
The behavior of infants, too, is modifiable by appropriate 
reward and punishment even though we do not hold them 
morally responsible. But as the age of rationality approaches 
we gradually do. This suggests that in addition to suscepti- 
bility to reward and punishment, we attribute responsibiUty 
where there is a tendency to respond to valid reasons, to 
behave rationally, to respond to human emotions in a human 
way. Perhaps a third element involved in the attribution of 
moral responsibility to voluntary action is the assumption 
that volvmtary action is approved action. A man is morally 
responsible for an action he commits to the extent that he 
approves of it. If he sincerely disapproves of his action, re- 
gards it as wrong and condemns it as wrong, but still commits 
it we tend to regard him as ill, as acting under "compulsion." 
It is some such consideration as this that lies behind our 
extenuation of certain kinds of apparently voluntary action 
(as when we say: "He didn't mean to do it"), especially 
where igorance is present. 

There may be other elements involved in the complex 
notion of moral responsibility, but the foregoing explains an 
interesting phenomenological fact. Sickness, accident, or in- 
capacity aside, one feels lessened as a human being if one's 
actions are always excused or explained away on the ground 
that despite appearances one is really not responsible for 
them. It means being treated like an object, an infant, or 
someone out of his mind. Our dignity as rational human 
beings sometimes leads us to protest, when a zealous friend 
seeks to extenuate our conduct on the ground that we were 
not responsible (we didn't know or intend what we were 
doing, etc.), that we really are responsible and that we are 
prepared to take the consequences of our responsibility. As 
bad as the priggishness of the self-righteous is the whine of 
the self-pitying. 

The so-called "hard" determinism professed by Professors 
Hospers and Edwards, especially in the popular form de- 

^Mind, 1951 

190 / Determinism and Freedom 

fended by Darrow, whom Edwards so extravagantly praised, 
often leads to sentimentality, to so much pity for the criminal 
as a victim not of a special set of particular circumstances but 
of any circumstances in general (referred to as heredity and 
environment, the sway of the law of causality) that there is 
not sufficient pity or concern left for the criminal's victims — 
not only for his past victims but his future ones and the 
victims of others his actions may inspire. To blame and to 
punish, of course, are two distinct things logically (except 
where blame is considered a form of punishment), but psy- 
chologically there is a great reluctance to punish if one be- 
lieves there is no blame. Darrow as a "hard" determinist 
argued on a priori grounds that everyone was blameless and 
often won acquittals not on the evidence but despite it. If 
needless pain and cruelty are evils, then punishment that 
prevents or deters human beings from committing actions 
likely to result in much greater pain and cruelty than it im- 
poses is sometimes the lesser evil. 

It is argued by Professor Edwards that "hard" determin- 
ism, which, according to him, entails the belief that no one is 
morally responsible because no one ultimately shapes his own 
character, leads to the abandonment of retributive punish- 
ment. Even if this were so, it would not make the doctrine of 
"hard" determinism any more intelligible. But historically it 
is not so. From Augustine to Calvin to Barth the torment of 
eternal damnation is assigned and approved independently of 
moral responsibility. It is not related of the oft-quoted Puritan 
who piously observed to his son when they saw a man being 
led to the gallows, "There but for the grace of God go I," 
that he opposed retributive punishment. Nor can Edwards con- 
sistently with his own theory assert that "hard" determinists 
should repudiate retributive punishment, or morally blame 
them or anyone else, as he freely does, for approving of retri- 
butive punishment. For has he not told us that a man can't 
help having the character he has, no matter what kind of a 
character it is? Further, if retributive punishment is the 
enemy, there seems to me to be no necessary logical connec- 
tion between a belief in moral responsibility and approval of 
retributive punishment. Certainly, "soft" determinists who 
assign responsibility to actions only when there is reason to 
believe that blame or punishment will modify future conduct 
are hardly likely to defend retributive punishment. 

Why, after all, is retributive punishment evil? Not because 
the wrongdoer "ultimately did not shape his own character"— 

Necessity, Indeterminlsm, and Sentimentalism / 191 

whatever that may mean — but simply because the pain in- 
flicted on him gratuitously adds to the sum total of suffering 
in the world without any compensating alleviation of anybody 
else's sufferings. Even if an individual were considered able 
"ultimately to shape his own character" and were held mor- 
ally responsible for an evU act, punishment that would be 
purely retributive and that did not contribute to deterring him 
or others from evil doing, or did nothing toward rehabilitating 
him, would still be morally wrong. This is quite evident in 
situations in which the "hard" determinist who is not a fatal- 
ist, if there be any such, admits that a man is to some extent, 
not ultimately but proximately, responsible for some change 
in his character — for example, when his desire to gamble 
leads him to steal a beggar's portion. In such situations retri- 
butive punishment as such would be regarded as morally 
wrong. Directed only to the past, it would not give the beggar 
back his portion or wipe out his pain, and therefore the new 
sufferings it inflicts are futile and needlessly cruel. If one can 
oppose retributive punishment when one believes a person 
is proximately responsible for his action, one can oppose it 
even when one believes a person is ultimately responsible, 
whatever the cognitive content of that belief turns out to be. 
If retributive punishment is the target of their criticism, 
Hospers and Edwards are training their guns in the wrong 

Far from diminishing the amount of needless cruelty and 
suffering in the world, I am firmly convinced that the belief 
that nobody is ever morally responsible, in addition to being 
false, is quite certain to have a mischievous effect and to in- 
crease the amount of needless cruelty and suffering. For it 
justifies Smerdyakov's formula in The Brothers Karamazov: 
"All things are permissible." One of the commonest experi- 
ences is to meet someone whose belief that he can't help doing 
what he is doing (or faihng to do) is often an excuse for not 
doing as well as he can or at least better than he is at present 
doing. What often passes as irremediable evil in this world, 
or inevitable suffering, is a consequence of our failure to act 
in time. We are responsible, whether we admit it or not, for 
what it is in our power to do; and most of the time we can't 
be sure what it is in our power to do until we attempt it. In 
spite of the alleged inevitabilities in personal life and history 
human effort can redetermine the direction of events, even 
though it cannot determine the conditions that make human 
effort fK>ssibIe. It is time enough to reconcile oneself to a 

192 / Determimsm and Freedom 

secret shame or a public tyranny after one has done one's best 
to overcome it, and even then it isn't necessary. 

To say, as Professor Hospers does, that "It's all a matter of 
luck" is no more sensible tiian saying: "Nothing is a matter 
of luck" — assuming "luck" has a meaning in a world of 
hard determinism. It is true that we did not choose to be 
bom. It is also true that we choose, most of us, to keep on 
living. It is not true that everything that happens to us is like 
"being struck down by a dread disease." The treatment and 
cure of disease — ^to use an illustration that can serve as a 
moral paradigm for the whole human situation — would never 
have begun unless we believed that some things that were 
did not have to be, that they could be different, and that we 
could make them different. And what we can make different 
we are responsible for. 

Chapter 9 

PurBBshmenf as Jystiee and @s Friee; 

Abba Lerner, Roosevelt College 


Regarding the problem of personal responsibility, it seems 
to me that Professor Edwards' argument, with which I am 
in close agreement, does not really depend on a demonstra- 
tion that nobody makes his own character any more than it 
depends on the arguments and examples brought forth by Pro- 
fessor Hospers on the importance of subconscious drives and 
compulsions in criminal activity. Professor Edwards' position 
really seems to rest on the rejection of the axiom that it is 
desirable or just that a person who has committed a crime 
should be made to suffer. This axiom does not depend at all 
on who, if anyone, is responsible for the bad character of the 
bad man who performs the bad act. There is thus no sug- 
gestion that he should be punished for having a bad character 
if he did not commit the crime or even for having chosen to 
have the bad character or to make it for himself. If making 
a bad character is a crime in itself that is another crime. It 
may raise the question whether whoever was responsible for 
making the bad character should be punished for it, but that 
is a different question. The rejection of the axiom that crime 
must be atoned by the suffering of punishment leaves punish- 
ment without justification unless some other justification is 
found, such as the protection of society through the provision 
of a deterrent to antisocial behavior. The history of how the 
criminal became a bad man is then irrelevant, even though it 
may induce jurors to direct acquittals. The relating of such 
history does not constitute a logical argument against carrying 
out any particular punishment, but it may lead to the reieclion 
of the axiom that justice is done when crime is balanced by 
the suffering of punishment. 


I should like to comment on Professor Hart's treatment of 
the conditions for excusing punishment on the same footing 


194 / Determinism and Freedom 

as conditions for the invalidation of contracts, as if punish- 
ment were a price. His argument is that it is good to be able 
to measure the punishment against the satisfaction one may 
get from committing a crime. This increases freedom by per- 
mitting the exercise of rational choice in committing the crime 
only where the satisfaction is greater than the punishment- 
price. Any contract-crime not freely and responsibly entered 
into is then invalidated and the price-punishment is canceled. 

I was particularly interested in this because I have been 
doing almost exactly the opposite in economics — not treating 
punishment as a price, but treating price as a punishment. 
The price of a commodity is a deterrent to the consumer; it 
deters him from consuming the product. Ideally, the magni- 
tude of the price should correspond to the amount of damage 
that the consumer does to the rest of society by consuming 
the product and thereby making it unavailable for others to 
consume. The individual will then choose to consume if the 
satisfaction he gets is greater than the price and therefore 
greater than the loss to the rest of society. And since by the 
payment of the price he completely compensates the rest of 
society, society as a whole (including our consumer) benefits 
from his decision to commit the consumption. Furthermore, 
the complete compensation of the rest of society (by the price 
that he pays) leaves it without reason for wishing to interfere 
with his freedom of choice. The proper price, therefore, leads 
to the maximization of welfare and of freedom. 

This kind of maximization does not, however, apply to the 
punishment of crime because the suffering of the punished 
criminal is not balanced by a benefit to the rest of society 
(except where the punishment takes the form of a money 
fine and does operate just like a price). The committing of a 
crime does not mean that society as a whole (including our 
criminal) benefits. Even if the criminal enjoys a net benefit 
after punishment, his punishment does not compensate the 
rest of society for the damage done them by the crime. On 
the contrary, the rest of society suffers further losses from the 
costs involved in providing justice and keeping the man in 
prison. In the case of the price mechanism, if the consumer 
decides to consume the commodity and suffer the purchase 
price, the price system is performing its function of ensuring 
maximum welfare and freedom perfectly. But if the criminal 
decides to commit the crime and then pay the punishment, the 
punishment system has failed in its function of preventing the 

Punishment as Justice and as Price; On Randomness / 195 


A point that intrigued me particularly was Professor 
Lande's treatment of randomness. His argument seemed based 
on the idea that a random distribution is a special kind of 
order that in a determinate universe must have been planned 
by some demon. The question that remains is only whether 
there is a demon operating at every point where an apparently 
random distribution exists — or perhaps in every subatomic 
particle — or whether there was some superdemon who ar- 
ranged all these random distributions at the creation. I don't 
find myself tempted by either form of demonology because I 
have always thought of random distribution as precisely the 
opposite of order, on the assumption that randomness is the 
mark of the absence of order and that as long as any distribu- 
tion is random no amount of study or observation of it will 
give any information as to the probabilities of the next throw. 
But I am not very happy about my position. I think I should 
look into the philosophical and perhaps mathematical treat- 
ments of randomness to see if what I am saying does not 
involve an elementary blimder. 

Chapter 10 

Some Notes on Determinism 

Ernest Nagel, Columbia University 

Whether the occurrence of every discriminable event is 
determined, whether for every event there is a unique set of 

,; conditions without whose presence the event would not take 
7 tplace, and whether if conditions of a specified kind are given 
an event of a certain type will invariably happen, are variant 
forms of a question that cannot be settled by a priori argu- 
ments. Nor do I think the questions can be answered defini- 

■tively and finally, even on the basis of factual evidence; for, 

f as I shall presently suggest, the question is best construed as 
dealing with a rule of procedure for the conduct of cognitive 

^ inquiry, rather than with a thesis concerning the constitution 
of the world. I am therefore not convinced by Professor 
Blanshard's acute argument attempting to show that an an- 
swer to the question other than an affirmative one is indefen- 
sible, if not unintelligible. Moreover, his assertion that even in 
deductive thinking and artistic invention each step is neces- 
sitated by the logical and the aesthetic relations that exercise a 
power over the mind seems to me untenable — if it is admitted 
as relevant to his major contention. For his assumption that 
logical and aesthetic relations (as distinct from apprehensions 
of such relations) may be said to engage in causal action at- 
tributes causal efficacy to something that, in no recognizable 
and identifiable sense of the phrase, can exercise such agency. 
Nevertheless, the belief in determinism is not unfounded; 
and it would be just silly to maintain that in no area of experi- 
ence can we rightly affirm that anything is caused or deter- 
mined by anything else. It seems to me the special merit of 
Professor Black's paper that it indicated at least one identifi- 
able class of contexts in which the words "caused," "deter- 
mined," and their derivates have an unquestionable and im- 
portant use. In these contexts involving human action it is 
simply nonsense to deny that events have causes or effects, in 
senses of these words appropriate to these contexts. Black has 
also made plain that the conditions under which "caused" and 
"determined" have significant uses, in those situations where 
men initiate actions and are responsible for the occurrence of 


Some Notes on Determinism / 197 

events, require the presence of identifiable contingencies and 
the absence of just such "necessities" as those for which 
Blanshard argues. 

But it does not follow from Black's analysis that the only 
sense that can be attached to "cause" and "determined" is the 
sense they manifestly do have in the indicated contexts — any 
more than it follows that, because the word "number" is un- 
doubtedly used in situations involving the counting of objects, 
the meaning of the word in statements about such irrational 
magnitudes as the area of a circle with a unit radius must also 
involve reference to counting. There are, to be sure, historical 
continuities and important analogies between the use of these 
words in contexts of human action and their use in discussions 
about, say, the "indeterminism ' of electrons. But it is patently 
a mistake to construe the meanings of those words in this 
latter context in terms of the "paradigm"' for their use in situa- 
tions where men are correctly identified as causal agents. Al- 
though Black does not explicitly guard himself against the 
suspicion that he does take his paradigm as basic for all uses 
of "caused," it is unlikely that he would commit himself to 
such as position. On the other hand, it does seem to me that 
Professor Bridgman (and perhaps even Professor Lande) 
commits a somewhat similar mistake when he suggests that 
the "indeterminacy" of quantum theory can be explicated in 
terms of familiar facts "in the sphere of ordinary life." 

In the voluminous literature on the "indeterminism" of 
microphysics, one point stands out clearly: whatever the issue 
may be, it is generated by the theoretical interpretations that 
are placed on the acknowledged data rather than by any dis- 
agreement as to what those data are. Thus no one disputes 
that when a beam of light passes through appropriately ar- 
ranged slits and strikes a zinc sulphide screen, scintillations oc- 
cur that fall into a definite pattern; or that quantum theory 
accounts for the occurrence of each individual scintillation. 
Problems arise, however, when the structure of quantum 
theory is analyzed with a view to showing why it is that this 
theory cannot account for individual scintillations. But the 
problems are generated because answers to the questions are 
proposed in terms of familiar facts "in the sphere of ordinary 
life" rather than in terms of the structure of the theory itself. 

It is a commonplace that quantum theory employs a dis- 
tinctive way of "describing" the state of a physical system 
with which the theory can deal. This state description (the psi 
function) is such that, given its value for some initial time, and 

198 / Determinism and Freedom 

assuming an appropriate set of boundary conditions for the 
application of the theory, the theory makes it possible to cal- 
culate the value of the function for any other time. In this 
respect quantum theory is as "deterministic" as are the dy- 
namical theories of classical physics. It differs from these in 
that, while the state description of the latter can be construed 
as representing magnitudes associated with certain individual 
elements that constitute the physical systems in question, its 
state function can be construed as representing only a statisti- 
cal property of the individual elements making up the physical 
system. In short, the state description of quantum theory is a 
statistical parameter So far nothing could be more straight- 
forward or less puzzling. The puzzle begms when reasons are 
offered why the state function of quantum mechanics is a 
statistical parameter. 

The reason Professor Land6 appears to give is that any 
given value assigned to the psi function constitutes the initial 
conditions for the application of the theory to a concrete situ- 
ation, and that since initial conditions constitute a brute and 
underived fact they represent an inherently chance or random 
feature of the world I doubt very much whether I have under- 
stood Professor Land^'s presentation of his views, and my 
comments may be entirely irrelevant to his real intent. But as 
I understand him, he has not made clear what he set out to 
clarify. For every theory — not only quantum mechanics — 
requires initial conditions that at some point or other in an 
investigation into concrete subject matter must be accepted as 
underived and therefore as representative of a "random" fea- 
ture of the world, as are the initial conditions for quantum 
theory. This attempt to assimilate the "indeterminacy" of 
microphysics to facts "in the sphere of ordinary life" is not a 
successful one. 

Professor Bridgman seeks to explain the statistical aspect 
of the psi function by invoking the general principle that 
whenever measurements are made the instruments employed 
interact with the things measured and thereby introduce 
changes into the latter. His contention is that, although such 
alterations are practically negligible when we measure things 
that are sufficiently large, the changes cannot be ignored when 
the minute "particles" of microphysics are measured with the 
relatively large instruments at our disposal, so that the psi 
function inevitably represents only statistically significant 
magnitudes associated with the elementary particles of quan 
turn physics. Now, the general principle Professor Bridgman 

Some Notes on Determinism / 199 

invokes is undoubtedly sound. The difficulty in his explana- 
tion, however, is that though the principle is sound it does not, 
in other areas of inquiry, prevent us from calculating the 
effects of measuring instruments on the things measured and 
so making corresponding allowances in assigning magnitudes 
to the objects under investigation. Why should the situation be 
inherently different in quantum physics? I find it difficult to 
escape the impression that Professor Bridgman has put the 
cart before the horse. For it seems to me that the alleged effect 
of measurement on microphysical "particles" must be as- 
sumed as at best a consequence that follows from the accept- 
ance of quantum theory, rather than that the theory is based 
on independently ascertained facts concerning the alterations 
made by instruments of measurement on microphysical "par- 
ticles." At any rate, I do not think Professor Bridgman has 
convincingly shown that the "indeterminism" inherent in the 
structure of quantum theory is but another illustration of a 
familiar feature "in the sphere of ordinary life." 

Although quantum theory is not deterministic in the precise 
sense in which the dynamical theories of classical physics are 
deterministic, and although quantum theory (or, for that 
matter, any other available theory of contemporary physics) 
does not account in detail for such occurrences as the individ- 
ual scintillations mentioned previously, it of course does not 
follow that there really are no precise conditions for the oc- 
currence of those events that quantum mechanics does not 
explain, or that a theory that can account for these things is 
impossible. The assumption that there always are such precise 
conditions for every event, even if we continue to remain 
permanently ignorant of them, is the assumption of a uni- 
versal determinism. As I have already indicated, determinism 
so understood is capable neither of decisive proof nor dis- 
proof. I think, nevertheless, that determinism can be regarded 
as a fruitful maxim or regulative principle for inquiry. It 
does not express a necessity of thought, for it can be aban- 
doned. But if it is abandoned, then inquiry in certain direc- 
tions is, at least temporarily, brought to a halt. In an impor- 
tant sense, therefore, the deterministic maxim is explicative of 
what is generally understood to be a goal of the scientific 

I want to conclude with a brief comment on the contention 
of Professor Edwards and Hospers that, if determinism sup- 
plies a true account of the nature of things, it does not make 
sense to hold anyone morally responsible for his actions or to 

200 / Determinism and Freedom 

offer moral praise and blame. Under what conditions do we 
hold a person morally responsible for an action? Consider an 
example. I engage the services of a student as baby sitter on 
the assumption that she is capable of doing certain things. Her 
ability to do them depends on a number of conditions, includ- 
ing the state of her body, her education, and her previous 
experience with children of a certain age. If she does indeed 
satisfy these conditions and also agrees to perform certain 
tasks that are compatible with her abilities, she is morally 
responsible for performing them. The fact that she did not 
create her own body, or that she did not choose the education 
she received, are not relevant considerations for judging 
whether she is morally responsible for some event that may 
take place during my absence from home. On the other hand, 
if during my absence burglars enter and tie up the student, or 
if she becomes unconscious for causes not within her control, 
she is not morally responsible for what may befall my chil- 
dren. The point is obvious. Moral responsibility is correctly 
ascribed to individuals who possess certain capacities; and it is 
correct to make the ascription for the sufficient reason that 
this is just the way the phrase "morally responsible" is used. 
The fact that possessing these capacities is contingent on a 
variety of conditions, most of which are perhaps beyond the 
control of an individual, is irrelevant to the analysis of what 
we do mean by the phrase as well as to the grounds on which 
the ascription is rightly made. To maintain the contrary is in 
effect to maintain that no property can be correctly predicated 
of an object if the property is causally dependent on anything 
either in the composition or in the evironment of the object. 
Such a view makes all predication impossible. But in any 
event Professor Edwards and Hospers can sustain their thesis 
only by radically altering the customary conception of what 
it means for anyone to be morally responsible. 

Chapter 1 1 

Causation, Def©rminism, and 

the ''G9@d'' 

F. S. C. Northrop, School of Law, Yale University 

Professor Bridgman has suggested that there is much more 
agreement among physicists concerning the status of the con- 
cept of causality in quantum mechanics than appears super- 
ficially from quotations pulled out of context. There are rea- 
sons for believing that this agreement is more unanimous even 
than Professor Bridgman has indicated. 

One difficulty is that mechanical causation in modem 
physics has a stronger and a weaker meaning, and as yet there 
is no convention among physicists and informed philosophers 
of science as to which of these two meanings the expression 
"mechanical causation" is to have. Some physicists use these 
words in the stronger sense, others in the weaker sense. Since 
with respect to quantxmi mechanics what holds for the weaker 
meaning does not hold for the stronger meaning, physicists 
often appear to differ about the status of causality in quantum 
mechanics, when in fact there is complete agreement. Fur- 
thermore, there was no difference of opinion between Einstein 
and quantum physicists concerning the status of mechanical 
causality and determinism in quantum mechanics. It is pre- 
cisely because Einstein agreed with them about what the 
theory requires that he objected to quantum theory. It can be 
shown, however, that according to Einstein's own theory of 
the relation between theoretical concepts and experimental 
evidence, his objection is untenable. The situation becomes 
clear when the weaker and stronger meanings of mechanical 
causality are precisely defined. As understood by physicists, 
determinism is equivalent to the stronger of the two types of 
mechanical causation. This is probably also what a man with 
common-sense knowledge means by determinism, even though 
he is rarely, if ever, clear about what this meaning is. 

In the paradigm that marked Professor Black's approach to 
the problem of determinism, by the method of contemporary 
British analytic philosophy, common sense was again fol- 


202 / Determinism and Freedom 

lowed. In order to relate his conclusions to the concept of 
determinism as understood in mathematical physics, two 
things must be noted: (1) the ambiguities in his paradigm 
and in the method of British analytic philosophy generally; 
(2) the difference between the definition of cause in his para- 
digm and the concept of cause in mathematical physics. 

The ambiguities of Professor Black's paradigm, as of Brit- 
ish philosophical analysis generally, arise from the fact that 
such philosophical analysis, so-called, never makes explicit 
which one of several possible epistemological meanings the 
words convey in the common-sense contexts. The result is a 
surreptitious shift from assertions true for only one possible 
epistemological meaning to conclusions valid, if at all, only 
for different epistemological meanings. As a result, British 
analytic philosophy confuses more than it clarifies, as the fol- 
lowing analysis of Professor Black's paradigm shows. 

In the sense in which this paradigm "stands on its own 
feet," as Professor Black maintained it did, it must be taken 
in its radical empirical, nominalistic meaning. But in this 
sense, as Hume showed, there is merely temporal succession 
and no relation of necessary connection, or causality, of any 
kind. Professor Goodman's remark that causality is a tautol- 
ogy is interesting in this connection. It is the inevitable con- 
sequence of any attempt, after the manner of Professors 
Quine and Goodman, to rear mathematics and mathematical 
physics on nothing but nominalistic, radical empirical epis- 
temological meanings. Then not merely mechanical causality 
in either the weaker or the stronger form — to be defined in the 
sequel — but most of the other concepts of mathematical 
physics become similarly either meaningless or trivial. 

When one takes Professor Black's paradigm in its naive 
realistic epistemological meaning, as he suggests in using the 
word "object" and conceiving of causality as a relation be- 
tween objects, then, to be sure, perhaps a bit more than 
Hume's mere temporal succession is obtained, but in this case, 
as Professor Weiss points out, the paradigm does not stand on 
its own feet, and the conclusion Professor Black draws about 
the compatibility of determinism and freedom fails to fol- 
low. Certainly, interpreted as naive realistic epistemological 
material objects, the things described by the paradigm may 
well be subject to mechanically antecedent causes. 

The latter consideration suggests that the paradigm becomes 
relevant to the problem of causality — to say nothing about its 
relation to mechanically causal determinism — only if a third 

Causation, Determinism, and the "Good" / 203 

surreptitious epistemological shift occurs in the interpretation 
of it, in which the person who "causes something to happen" 
is not viewed from without but is instead viewed as purpose- 
fully acting from within. But again, if this is the meaning, the 
causality is teleological, and the difficulties raised by the 
mechanically causal determinism of modern physics are not 
touched. Furthermore, if the causality is purposeful and teleo- 
logical, may not the individual's choice of this purpose have 
been mechanically determined? Again we see that so far as 
the paradigm has any relevance to the problem of determin- 
ism it does not stand on its own feet. Like British philosophi- 
cal analysis generally, the so-called clarification of the prob- 
lem of determinism that Professor Black's common-sense 
paradigm is supposed to give is so shot through with epistemo- 
logical ambiguities and surreptitious shifts in the epistemo- 
logical meanings of the words used that it is, like this method 
generally, philosophically useless. 

In any event. Professor Black doesn't touch the problem of 
determinism, which arises only when one thinks of causality 
as modern physicists do: not, after the manner of Professor 
Black, as a relation between objects but as the relation be- 
tween the states of the same object, or the same system of ob- 
jects, at different times. Mechanical causation affirms, in either 
its weaker or its stronger meaning, that this temporal relation, 
between the states of a system at different times is a relation/ 
of necessary connection. 

Since, as Hume showed, we do not observe any relations of 
necessary connection, two things foUow: (1) The concept of 
mechanical causation in modern physics cannot be attained 
merely by direct inspection of a common-sense example or 
by so-called "analysis" of the grammar of an Englishman's 
description of such an example; only temporal succession wUl 
be found by such a method. (2) Physical systems obeying 
mechanical causation can therefore be known only by deduc- 
tively formulated, axiomatically constructed, indirectly veri- 
fied theory. To determine, therefore, what the status of 
mechanical causality is in modem physics, one must do more 
than examine the inductive, radically empirical sensible opera- 
tions — important as these are — ^by means of which the specu- 
latively proposed, axiomatically constructed theory is verified 
indirectly. This type of examination will give one merely 
operational, theory-of-errors probability, which is present in 
any experimental testing of any theory and hence is quite in- 
sufficient to distinguish quantum mechanics from previous 

204 / Determinism and Freedom 

modern physics with respect to the status of mechanical cau- 
sation and, more particularly, its stronger form, determinism. 
Operational probability enters into all scientific theory. This 
type of probability and chance is frequently referred to as 
epistemological probability and chance, since it has its basis 
in the finiteness and errors that accompany the scientist's 
attempt to relate himself in knowledge to the object. To under- 
stand the unique conclusion of quantum mechanics with 
respect to mechanical causation and its stronger form, deter- 
minism, one must concentrate attention on the speculatively 
introduced, axiomatically constructed postulates of the modern 
theories of mathematical physics, with particular reference to 
the presence or absence of the concept of theoretical probabil- 
ity — i.e., probability introduced in principle — in the postu- 
lates. Since such probability, if it occurs, refers to the object 
\ of scientific knowledge, it is appropriately called ontological 
probability or chance. 

Two factors in any deductively formulated theory of 
modern physics must command the focus of one's attention. 
These two factors are (1) the definition of the state of the 
system at any given moment of time and (2) the definition of 
the time relation between states of the system at different 

Let us concentrate on the latter relation first. There are 
three major possibilities. One is instanced by any merely in- 
ductive empirical observations of the changes of the system 
through time without any speculatively introduced, axiomati- 
cally constructed theory. By plotting these changes from the 
earlier to the later state of the system, a curve can be ob- 
tained. For every curve, as Professor Philip Frank and others 
have noted, there is a formula or law. Such lawfully defined 
relation between the earlier and later states of a system is not, 
however, regarded by modem physicists as constituting a 
truly mechanically causal system. The reason for this conclu- 
sion is that such a law or formula cannot be given until after 
one has seen the system pass from its earlier to its later state. 
Thus it has no predictive power. As Professor Frank noted, it 
merely affirms that what happens happens and in this sense, 
again, is little more than a trivial tautology so far as causality 
is concerned. 

There is a second possibility with respect to the nature of 
the time relation between states of an isolated system. The 
relation may be one of necessary connection characterized 
by a repetition of constant time relations that hold true not 

Causation, Determinism, and the "Good" / 205 

merely for past and present but also for future cases; but it 
is a relation such that in any first observed instance, given the 
initial state of the system, one cannot predict the future state 
until one has observed the present state passing into the future 
or final state in at least one instance. The physical system in 
which the initial state is that of the acorn and the final state 
that of the oak constitutes an example. Such a relation of 
necessary connection, since a knowledge for prediction of 
future states of the system depends on a knowledge of what 
the future state is, is called teleological causality. 

There is a third possible form that the time relation between 
the states of a scientifically determined system may possess. 
In this third type, as in the second, the relation is one of 
necessary connection, but the relation of necessary connection 
has the following properties: (1) There exists a speculatively 
introduced, axiomatically constructed set of postulates of an 
indirectly and experimentally confirmed, deductively formu- 
lated theory. (2) The postulates of this theory specify a very 
small number of independent variables necessary and suffici- 
ent to define completely the state of a system at any specific 
moment of time /^. (3) Given the operationally determined, 
concept-by-intuition values of the independent variables of 
this definition of the state of the system at an earlier time /^, 
(a) all the other properties of the system at that time ?j can 
be deduced, and (b), without any observation in a present or 
past instance of the future state of a similar system, the em- 
pirical values of the independent variables of the physical 
system at the later time t^ can be deduced by solving a second- 
order differential equation that the postulates and theorems 
of the theory provide. When the foregoing conditions are satis- 
fied, the causality of the system, i.e., the relation of necessary 
connection between the states of the system at different times, 
is mechanical causality in the forementioned weaker meaning 
of this term. More concretely, this means that the deductively 
formulated theory provides a time equation such that, by feed- 
ing the operationally determined empirical values of the con- 
cept-by-postulation, theoretically introduced independent vari- 
ables of the state function into the equation, the values of 
these variables for a specific later time t^ are completely deter- 
mined by solving the equation for that time t^. 

Note that causality in this sense is not a trivial tautology. 
It is, instead, a relation of necessary connection such that, 
given the postulates of the theoryand given the determination 
of the independent variables in any present state of the sys- 

206 / Determinism and Freedom 

tern, a completely novel future state, never before observed in 
any past instance, can be deduced. Furthermore, a large num- 
ber of other properties of the system in the initial state and 
in the final state can also be deduced. 

What is the role of the foregoing type of mechanical caus- 
ality in the weaker meaning of these two words in any theory 
jof modern physics in which such a relation of necessary con- 
nection between the earlier and later states of a system is pres- 
jent? The answer to this question is unequivocal. In the postu- 
i.lates of the theory the concept of probability does not enter 
into the definition of the time relation between the states of 
any system. The first important thing to note about quantum 
mechanics is that, as for Newton's mechanics, Maxwell's 
electromagnetics, and Einstein's special and general theories 
of relativity, mechanical causality in the weaker meaning 
holds. This is the case for two reasons: First, the concept of 
theoretical probability does not enter into its definition of the 
time relation between the states of a subatomic physical sys- 
tem. Second, it provides the Schrodinger time equation, which 
has the aforementioned property of enabling one, given the 
operationally determined empirical values of the present state 
of the system as defined by the theory, to deduce the future 
state of the system, as so defined, at any specified later time t^ 
merely by solving this equation. 

But if mechanical causation in the weaker meaning of the 
words holds for quantum mechanics just as it did for New- 
ton's mechanics, Maxwell's electromagentics, and Einstein's 
special and general theories of relativity, why, then, has it 
been affirmed by physicists that quantum mechanics alters the 
status of causality — and more particularly of determinism — 
in modern physics? The answer to this question will become 
clear if one shifts attention from the definition of the time 
relation between states to the definition of state in the mod- 
ern theories. The novelty of quantum mechanics consists in 
this, and solely in this, that theoretically, and hence in prin- 
ciple, it has found it necessary in order to account for the 
experimental data to introduce the concept of theoretical 
probability into the definition of state of a subatomic physical 
system. In Newton's mechanics, Maxwell's electromagnetics, 
and Einstein's special and general theories of relativity, the 
concept of theoretical probability was not introduced either 
into the definition of state or into the definition of the time 
relation between states. Hence in these four theories mechani- 
cal causality in the stronger sense of absolute determinism 

Causation, Determinism, and the "Good" / 207 

held. There was, in other words, no ontological chance or 
probability in the object of empirically verified, theoretically 
designated scientific knowledge. Thus, according to these four 
theories, causality is not merely mechanical, but it is also 
unqualifiedly deterministic. Whatever probability existed be- 
longed merely to the experimental, operational side and hence 
was merely epistemological. It was precisely because Einstein's 
own theory required, and because he consequently believed, 
that probability in physical science should have a merely epis- 
temological, theory-of-errors, operational status that he ob- 
jected to quantum mechanics. Thus there was no disagree- 
ment between Einstein and quantum physicists about what 
quantum mechanics afl5rms with respect to the existence of 
ontological chance and probability. The answer, therefore, to 
Professor Quine's question whether probability in quantum 
mechanics is merely epistemological is unequivocally "No." 

For this reason also Professor Blanshard's and Sir David j 
Ross's contention that quantum mechanics provides no evi-/ 
dence against causal determinism is erroneous. Professor 
Blanshard was quite right when, quoting Sir David, he noted 
that epistemological probability and chance do not imply 
ontological probability and chance. But the novelty of quan- 
tum mechanics consists precisely in the fact that, unlike pre- 
vious modern scientific theories in which probability and 
chance are merely epistemological, quantum physicists have 
found it impossible, when faced with experimental findings on 
black-body radiation, to accept mere epistemological or opera- j 
tional, theory-of-errors probability and have been forced to 1 
introduce instead the concept of probability in principle at the 
theoretical level into the specification of the type of causality / 
governing the object of scientific knowledge itself. This is the 
case because in quantum mechanics' definition of state the 
postulates in principle prescribe not merely the specification 
of the two independent variables, position and momentum, for 
each object of the system, but also a packet of such numbers 
with each one accompanied by its respective probability num- 
ber. Furthermore, because the probability is introduced in 
principle, the determinism is not, as Professor Williams has 
suggested, restored by including the experimental apparatus 
within the object of scientific knowledge. Also, the Compton 
effect provides experimental evidence to the same conclusion. 

Nevertheless, given a state of a subatomic system defined 
in terms of a packet of position and momentum numbers for 
each object in the system, accompanied by their correspond- 

208 / Determinism and Freedom 

ing probability numbers, the postulates of the theory are such 
that future state of the system defined in terms of position- 
momentum numbers and probability numbers can be deduced 
by recourse to the Schrodinger time equation. Consequently, 
in quantum mechanics causality in the weaker sense still holds, 
but mechanical causality in the stronger sense of determinism 
does not hold. 
f It remains to be shown why {a) Einstein's objections to 

/quantum mechanics and {b) the interpretation of it suggested 
in this conference by Professor Williams are untenable. When 

- Einstein came to the conclusion that it is possible to reconcile 
the results of the Michelson-Morley experiment with the basic 
theoretical assumptions of modern mechanics and electro- 
magnetics only by modifying a basic postulate introduced by 
Newton and assumed by Maxwell concerning space and time 
and the simultaneity of spatially separated events, Einstein 
himself tells us that he was faced with a methodological and 
epistemological difficulty. Newton, having asserted that he in- 
troduced no hypotheses and deduced the concepts of his 
theory from the experimental data, left the impression — like 
Professor Williams in his attempt to derive the concepts of 
modern physics from the experimental data — that the experi- 
mental data entailed the concepts. Einstein saw that if this 
were so he could not meet the difficulty raised by the Michel- 
son-Morley experiment by modifying Newton's theoretical 
assumptions. For the experiments performed by Newton can 
certainly be repeated today with the same results. Hence, if 
the experiments entail Newton's theory, Newton's theory must 
still be retained. Consequently, Einstein conducted a fresh 
examination of the relation between the experiments of the 
experimental physicist and the theoretical concepts of his 
science. In this essentially epistemological investigation Ein- 
stein had no difficulty showing that the simultaneity of spati- 
ally separated events, which is the same for all observers on 
the same Galilean frame of reference, is not directly sensed 
but is instead a speculatively introduced, indirectly verified 
hypothesis. Hence it followed that it was not necessary to 
specify the relation between space and time in the manner 
introduced by Newton. This opened the way for Einstein to 
account for all the experiments in accord with Newton's 
theory and the Michelson-Morley experiment without contra- 
diction in the theoretically novel manner of Einstein's special 
theory of relativity. This means that there is no a priori rea- 
son knowable ahead of time why the causality of a physical 

Causation, Determinism, and the "Good" / 209 

system must be of the stronger mechanical type. Hence there 
is no epistemological justification, on Einstein's own analysis 
of the epistemology of modern physical knowledge, for his 
objection to the introduction of the theoretical concept of 
probability into the definition of the state of a subatomic 
physical system in quantum mechanics. 

Furthermore, there are experimental reasons, exactly ana- 
logous to the Michelson-Morley experiment, demonstrating 
that the concept of probability cannot be kept out of the 
definition of state for subatomic systems. Before Planck intro- 
duced his quantum concept the traditional experimentally veri- 
fied, speculatively proposed theories prescribed in principle 
that the positions and momenta of subatomic, as of molar, 
scientific objects were determinable and behaved without 
reference to chance or probability. In short, the theory of 
subatomic systems was strictly deterministic, introducing the 
concept of probability into neither the definition of the time 
relation between states nor the definition of state. When, how- 
ever, the latter theory of the type of causality governing sub- 
atomic scientific objects was pursued mathematically to its 
deductive consequences, certain experiments on black-body 
radiation, exactly analogous to the Michelson-Morley experi- 
ment with respect to motion in electromagnetic systems, were 
performed, and these experiments did not give the result that 
the assumption of no probability in the definition of the state 
of subatomic systems requires. It was to meet this difficulty 
that Planck introduced his constant. Later Heisenberg showed 
that Planck's constant entails the uncertainty principle. It is 
this entailment, necessary to reconcile the experimental find- 
ings on black-body radiation with physical theory, that forces 
the introduction of the concept of probability in principle into 
the definition of state in quantum theory. Thus the very same 
epistemology and logic of the experimental situation that 
drove Einstein, following the Michelson-Morley experiment, 
to the modification of Newton's assumption concerning space 
and time, drives the subatomic physicists, on the basis of the 
experiments on black-body radiation, to the modification of 
the definition of state and the strict determinism of previous 
physical theories. Hence, on his own theory of the episte- 
mology of mathematical physics and its methodology, Ein- 
stein's objections to quantum mechanics are invalid. We have 
no alternative but to hold that for subatomic systems, mechani- 
cal causality in the weaker sense of the words still holds, but 
determinism or mechanical causality in the stronger sense does 

210 / Determinism and Freedom 

not hold. In short, quantum mechanics does not introduce the 
concept of theoretical probability into the definition of the 
time relation between states but does introduce it into the 
definition of state. In other words, quantum mechanics, as 
Professor Bridgman's paper suggested, introduces ontological 
and not merely epistemological chance and probability. 

By way of contrast it may be relevant to note a theory of 
modern physics — namely, thermodynamics in its statistical 
interpretation — in which the concept of probability is not in- 
troduced into the definition of state but is introduced into the 
definition of the time relation between states. Thus, in deter- 
mining the state of such a thermodynamic system at any given 
time, merely the values of the independent variables — tem- 
perature, energy, etc. — need be specified and no probability 
numbers need be attached. But given these operationally 
determined values of the independent variables in the state 
function, the future state of the system, again described com- 
pletely without probability numbers, is predicted only with a 
high, specified degree of probability. The time relation be- 
tween states is one, therefore, not of necessary connection, but 
merely of highly probable connection. This is why such scien- 
tific theories are called statistical and noncausal theories. 


Two questions may be asked of Professors Edwards and 
Hospers. The question to be put to the former is, "What is the 
meaning of the word 'good' when you say that it would be 
better if people did not pass moral judgments of praise and 
blame on what others do, but accepted the 'objective' truth 
that they cannot help themselves? If everything is absolutely 
determined and there is no moral responsibility, what is the 
meaning of 'better' and 'worse' as the words are used at the 
end of your paper?" The question addressed to Professor 
Hospers is, "If aU theories obtained by rigorous scientific 
methods are rationalizations in the vicious sense of this word, 
how can you be sure that the Freudian theory in which you 
have so much confidence — whose scientific methods still re- 
main misty and unclarified — is not also a vicious ration- 

May I suggest a possible answer to the questions addressed 
to Professor Edwards. Implicit in his use of the word "better" 
in his assumption that "good conduct" is conduct in accord 
with empirically verified scientific theory concerning the 
status of human deeds with respect to causal determinism. 

Causation, Determinism, and the "Good" / 211 

This implicit assumption is equivalent to saying that "good" is 
not an undefinable concept, as G. E. Moore maintained, but 
is instead to be defined in terms of theory that is scientifically 
verified as true. There are other reasons for supporting this 
analysis of the meaning of the word "good" and of the words 
"morally better" and "morally worse." Clearly, facts merely 
are; they are not true or false, good or bad. This being so, it 
seems difficult to escape the conclusion that goodness and bad- 
ness, like truth and falsity, must be a function of propositions 
about fact. But if this analysis of the meaning of the word 
"good" is to be significant, then human behavior and human 
choice must be, in part at least, a function not merely of fact, 
but of the theory, true or false, that people hold about facts 
and on which they act. 

The following question takes one, then, to the heart of the 
problem of moral responsibility: Do theories matter in human 
acts? Empirical cultural anthropology has shown that what 
people do in a given culture is a function of the mentality they 
share, i.e., the propositions they explicitly and implicitly be- 
lieve. There is experimental evidence that the theory of 
"trapped universals" of McCulIoch and Pitts makes it mean- 
ingful to say that the motor response of the nervous system 
(i.e., what a person does) is a function not merely of the sen- 
sory impulses (i.e., the purely inductively given facts affecting 
the nervous system) but also of the symbolic trapped univer- 
sals in the cortex that integrate and interpret the input stimuli, 
thereby to a significant extent specifying the form of the 
motor response. 

Hence, quite apart from the scientific evidence that deter- 
minism does not hold even for subatomic inorganic systems in 
quantum mechanics, there is evidence that scientific knowl- 
edge is quite compatible with moral responsibility and the re- 
jection of the reductionism of judgments of right and wrong 
to causally deterministic antecedent factors. This conclusion is 
confirmed even by Professor Edwards, since at the end of his 
paper, notwithstanding his scientifically questionable affirma- 
tion of absolute determinism, he does not avoid passing a 
judgment of "morally worse" on those who do not accept, and 
of "morally better" on those who do accept, his thesis in judg- 
ing human conduct. 

Chapter 12 

Determinism, Freedom, Moral . 
Res^nsibility/ and Causal Talk 

Arthur Pap, Yale University 

It is the contention of the philosophers whom William James, 
as reported by Professor Edwards, caUed "soft determinists" 
(a most inappropriate name, I think, in its suggestion of "soft- 
headed") that determinism is compatible with the occurrence 
of free actions, since what distinguishes free from unfree ac- 
tions is the mode of causation, not the absence of causes. 
Some of them further explain the appearance of incompati- 
bility as the result of an equivocation, a confusion of the 
meanings of "compelled" and "caused." Now, I still think that 
this diagnosis is correct and that the "problem" of freedom 
and determinism can be resolved by careful analysis of such 
slippery key expressions as "unavoidable," "having a choice," 
"could have acted differently," etc. 

Professor Blanshard tries to explain how we can feel free 
although our actions and the sUent decisions preceding them 
are uniquely determined by antecedent events and laws. Now, 
on whatever grounds a philosopher feels sure that our de- 
cisions, like all events, are "necessitated," I fail to see why our 
"feeling free" calls for explanation if one believes in deter- 
minism. Innumerable times in the past I have verified that my 
decisions were followed by the actions I decided to perform; 
hence I ascribe to myself the power "to do as I please." That 
I feel free just means that I believe on good grounds that — 
within limits, of course — I can do as I please. But this does 
not even seem incompatible with a causal determination of 
one's decisions unless it is fallaciously assumed that a deter- 
mined (caused) decision eo ipso ceases to be a decision; in 
other words, that "caused decision" is a contradiction in terms. 
It seems to me that what requires explanation is not the feel- 
ing of freedom but the fallacious belief that a caused decision 
is not really a decision. And I think I can supply this 

Suppose I were an omniscient psychologist engaged in pre- 
dicting scientifically what I was going to decide to do a short 
time later — say, that after five minutes I would decide to 
scratch my forehead. Could I really make a decision while 


Determinism, Freedom, Moral Responsibility, Causal Talk / 213 

predicting it silently; that is, while thinking that I was going 
to make it? I doubt it. Making a decision and predicting that 
decision are mental states that exclude each other in the same 
mind, since making a decision implies, by the very meaning of 
the term, uncertainty as to what one is going to do. But is it 
fallacious thence to conclude that my decision is not predict- 
able by another mind. From the fact that "predicting my own 
decision while making the decision" is meaningless it does not 
follow that "predicting a decision" is meaningless or that "pre- 
dicting my own decision before making the decision (and at 
the time of deciding oblivious of my prediction)" is meaning- 
less. We may also note that, if to a set of antecedents that 
make the occurrence of a decision D highly probable we add 
the antecedent expressed by "He predicts D on the basis of 
those antecedents" or "He knows that someone else has pre- 
dicted D," we get a set that may well reduce the probability 
of D to improbability or even impossibility. But this is no 
contradiction. In particular, knowledge of some determinist's 
pretensions to be able to predict my decision may well pro- 
duce in me the desire to falsify his prediction, but of course if 
I falsify the prediction deliberately I have not thereby refuted 
determinism: "same cause, same effect" is compatible with 
"different cause, different effect!" 

Professors Blanshard and Edwards seem to be agreed — 
whatever their differences on other points — that the definition 
of a free act as one that is caused by the agent's own choice 
(i.e., as an act that would not occur unless the agent willed it) 
leaves the real problem untouched; which is, in Professor 
Blanshard's words, "not whether we can do what we choose to 
do, but whether we can choose our own choice, whether the 
choice itself issues in accordance with law from some anteced- 
ent." Professor Edwards seems to mean roughly the same by 
the words "choosing his own character — the character that 
now displays itself in his choices and desires and efforts." But 
I cannot attach any meaning to the expression "choosing my 
^3wn choice." I understand what is meant by "I choose to read 
this book" but not what is meant by "I choose to choose to 
read this book." And what could be meant by "I chose my 
own character"? One gathers that by "character" Professor 
Edwards means a set of dispositions, including dispositions to 
make such-and-such choices in such-and-such situations. Now, 
surely it would sound queer to say, "I chose to acquire the 
habit of smiling broadly at my boss whenever I should meet 
him." It does make sense to say that what was at first a de- 

214 / Determinism and Freedom 

liberate, conscious effort eventually became an automatic 
response. But then the object of one's choice, in the usual 
sense of the word, is still a specific act ("I chose to put on a 
smUe though I can't stand him"), not a disposition to act or 
to decide to act in a specific way in such-and-such a situation. 

Indeed I stUl maintain that when people, be they philoso- 
phers or not, ask whether one's choice itself is free or con- 
strained they confuse determination with constraint (or com- 
pulsion). If by the assertion that the choice itself is not free — 
though the overt act is free in the "soft" determinists' sense — 
one means, in Professor Blanshard's words, that "the choice 
itself issues in accordance with law from some antecedent," 
then one means simply that the choice is determined; but from 
its being determined it does not follow that it is compelled in 
the ordinary sense of "compelled." "I was compelled to choose 
between death and poverty (by the gangster)" means that 
either alternative, surrendering the money or not surrendering 
it, had unpleasant consequences. On the other hand, we call 
a choice free if the agent has no reason to believe that both 
alternatives, doing A or not doing A, are intrinsically un- 
pleasant or have unpleasant consequences; in other words, if 
it is empirically possible to choose in accordance with one's 
desire. The usual counterargument is that, nevertheless, if all 
events are strictly determined, then / could not have made 
any other choice than the one made; therefore the freedom of 
choice is a mere illusion. But what does "could" mean? "I 
went to the movies, but I could have gone to the concert in- 
stead" clearly means that if I had preferred to go to the con- 
cert I should have gone (contrast this familiar statement with 
the equally familiar one: "Even if I had preferred to go to the 
concert, I should not have gone, because it was sold out"). 

Now, certain philosophers and psychologists are not satis- 
fied with the common-sense distinction between avoidable and 
unavoidable acts; they ask whether the mental preference it- 
self is avoidable. But if "avoidable" has the same meaning in 
this new context, then "My preference for the movies that 
night was avoidable" means "If I had preferred not to prefer 
the movies to the concert, I should not have preferred them"; 
and this, I submit, is the same meaningless iteration as "choos- 
ing to choose to read this book." If, on the other hand, "I 
could not have preferred anything else" means that the ante- 
cedents uniquely determined that preference, then those who 
deny freedom of choice on the ground of determinism are 
simply asserting the tautology that determinism is incompat- 

Determinism, Freedom, Moral Responsibility, Causal Talk / 215 

ible with indeterminism, not the interesting but false proposi- 
tion that determinism is incompatible with freedom of action 
and freedom of choice in any usual sense of these expressions. 

Implicit in the above is my reaction to the conclusion of 
Professor Edwards' paper that there is a sense of "moral 
responsibility" — indeed, this is alleged to be the sense in which 
the expression is used reflectively — in which determinism en- 
tails that one is never morally responsible for anything. Pro- 
fessor Edwards, following Professor C. A. Campbell, tells us 
that for some people the statement "X is morally responsible 
for doing A" entails, "X made (or chose) his own character." 
Now, if "choosing my own character" is meaningless, as it is 
relative to the ordinary use of "choose" (just as much as "eat- 
ing my own character"), then Professor Edwards has at- 
tempted to deduce a meaningful and startling conclusion from 
a meaningless definition of the expression "morally respons- 
ible." Suppose, on the other hand, that "I did not choose my 
own character" means "My character is the product of en- 
vironmental and hereditary factors that come into existence 
quite independently of my will." I think Professor Edwards is 
right in saying that many who believe in determinism refuse 
to hold people "ultimately" responsible for their actions on 
the ground that they did not choose their own character in this 
sense. But I think the reason why such determinists take this 
attitude is primarily that they fail to distinguish clearly be- 
tween determination and compulsion; that is, they think it 
follows from the premise that one's actions are causally deter- 
mined that they are neither right nor wrong because they fal- 
laciously and unconsciously substitute for this premise the far 
different proposition that we are always compelled to act the 
way we act, that all our actions are unavoidable. 

Professor Blanshard agrees with the "soft" determinists that 
determinism is compatible with moral criticism. But he sides 
with the indeterminists in holding that moral actions, actions 
inspired by a sense of moral duty, for example, are not "neces- 
sitated" in the same way as habitual and impulsive acts. This 
may be so, but I am not clear what the distinction between 
causation (or necessitation) on different levels comes to 
exactly. Professor Blanshard discusses deductive inference to 
bring out the difference. My deducing "All A are C" from "All 
A are 5" and "All B are C," he seems to maintain, is not 
simply an example of association; the implication itself neces- 
sitates the transition of thought from premises to conclusion. 
Now, it seems to me that if implications have such causative 

216 / Determinism and Freedom 

force — directing the movement of thought the way a river bed 
directs the flow of water — they must have it whether the 
thinker sees them or not. Yet it is notorious that we may think 
of a set of premises and not see what follows from them or 
draw the wrong conclusion from them. One may counter that 
one would see the entailed conclusion if one clearly grasped the 
meanings of the premised statements. But this is either em- 
pirically false or else an unexciting tautology — the latter if the 
stipulated definition of "grasping the meaning of p" is that 
one know all the necessary consequences of p. At any rate, 
this is not a definition of "knowing the meaning of p" that 
Professor Blanshard could accept consistently with his well- 
known view that there are synthetic entailments. I admit that 
where the entailment is fairly simple — syllogistic, for example 
— there is a considerable probability that thinking of the prem- 
ises will make one think of the valid conclusion. Suppose that 
"If p and q, then ;-" expresses such an entailment, where r is 
not a component of the premises (it must not be a modus pon- 
ens entailment, for example). Then we are justified, I presume, 
in making the corresponding causal statement: other things 
being equal, thinking of p and q will cause a mind to thing of 
r (the "other things" are such factors as being "minded" to 
draw a conclusion from the premises). But I fail to see why 
"cause" in this context should have a different meaning from 
the one it has in the context "If a man has frequently witnessed 
that the striking of a match is followed by a flame, then 
a perception of the first event wUl cause a thought (an expec- 
tation) of the second event" — which I suppose is an example 
of what Professor Blanshard would call mere association. I 
suspect that from the difference in the kind of implication cor- 
responding to the causal sequence of mental events — neces- 
sary implication in one instance, contingent regularity in the 
other — Professor Blanshard erroneously deduces a difference 
in the kind of causation. But it is svu-ely not logically necessary 
that, where p and q entail r, the thought of p and q should be 
followed by the thought of r. Otherwise we should all be per- 
fect logicians. 

In its semantic insight Professor Black's paper impressed 
me as the highlight of the New York University Institute. I 
agree completely with nearly everything in it, especially with 
the argument that to deduce from the proposition that an 
act is caused that it is not free is to be guilty of what amounts 
to self-contradiction; that free acts like lifting a glass of beer 
to one's lips are jxist the sort of events with reference to which 

Determinism, Freedom, Moral Responsibility, Causal Talk / 217 

"cause" is ostensively defined in the first place. There is only 
one point Professor Black made that leaves me unconvinced. 
Regularity of sequence, he says, is presupposed rather than as- 
serted by a singular counterfactual like "If he had not lifted 
the glass, it would have remained motionless." Whatever the 
exact definition of the assertion-presupposition distinction may 
be, I am sure that Professor Black, like Stravi'son, so uses 
"presupposition" that the falsity of a presupposition does not 
entail the falsity of the assertion that presupposes it. For ex- 
ample, if while pointing at Mr. X, I say, "That American is 
very rich," I presuppose — do not assert — that Mr. X is an 
American; for if it turned out that he was not an American 
but very rich, the proposition I asserted would not be refuted; 
it is just that a false assumption about Mr. X led me to de- 
scribe him incorrectly. 

Now, let the relevant generalization that according to Pro- 
fessor Black is presupposed, not asserted, by a person utter- 
ing the counterfactual "If he had not lifted the glass, it would 
have remained motionless" be: in situations like that one (or 
perhaps in all situations whatever) a glass does not move to- 
ward a man's lips unless someone — usually that very man — 
makes it move that way. Is is really true that no amount of 
disconfirmation of this generalization would lead us to retract 
the counterfactual as false as long as we saw the man's clasp- 
ing of the glass followed by the approach of the glass to his 
lips? I very much doubt it. If I experience repeatedly that after 
I clasped a glass an invisible force pushed the glass to my 
mouth though I made no effort whatever, and other people 
reported similar experiences, I should say to myself: Perhaps 
it was the same way in that case! Perhaps he made no effort at 
all; and even if he did make an effort, perhaps the same effect 
would have taken place if he had made no effort. Professor 
Black may reply that, if the generalization is indeed implicitly 
asserted when we utter the counterfactual, it is inexplicable 
how we can be as certain of the truth of the counterfactual as 
we normally are. But I think that this high degree of certainty 
can be accounted for without difficulty by one who stands by 
the regularity analysis of singular causal statements. We usu- 
ally apply the terms "cause" and "effect" to changes that 
somehow catch our attention. And we use these terms in such 
a way that only a change can be said to cause a change. Hence 
it is analytic to say that only a, preceding or simultaneous, 
change can have caused the observed movement of the glass; 
for example, the drinker's passage from a state of indifference 

218 / Detenninisni and Freedom 

toward the beer to a state of desiring it. At once, then, factors 
that remained constant are ruled out: the movement of the 
glass could not, for example, have been caused by anybody's 
perception of it, for it was perceived all along before it moved, 
etc. True, many other changes preceded the effect: thus, some- 
one near-by laughed shortly before it moved. But as we know 
of many instances when similar changes were not followed by 
a similar effect, they are likewise ruled out as possible causes. 
My point is that the very regularity analysis of the meaning 
of "cause" justifies an instantaneously and unconsciously per- 
formed eliminative induction that bestows a high probability 
on the singular causal statement. 

Chapter 13 

Some Eqyivo€al-ions of the 

Noflof^ of Responsibility 

Alfred Schutz, New School for Social Research 

Our discussion of the problem of responsibility was mainly 
concerned with the question on what grounds a person might 
be held answerable or accountable by law or from a moral 
point of view for something he did or omitted to do. The con- 
sequence of responsibility, in this sense, is the infliction of 
punishment, if we take this term in a sense broad enough to 
include reprehension, criticism, and censure. But even in this 
sense the notion "to be responsible" may mean two different 
things: on the one hand, a man is responsible for what he did; 
on the other hand, he is responsible to someone — the person, 
the group, or the authority who makes him answerable. 

This distinction between "being responsible for" and "being 
responsible to" becomes of particular importance if another 
equivocation of the notion of responsibility is taken into ac- 
count, namely that between its use in terms of the third (or 
second) person and in terms of the first person. It is submitted 
that the notion of "responsible" is an entirely different one if 
used in a proposition of the type "This person is responsible 
for this and that" and in a proposition of the type "I feel 
responsible for this and that (e.g., for the proper education of 
my children)." It is further submitted that these two notions 
of responsibility cannot fully coincide and that any philo- 
sophical analysis of the problem of responsibility must remain 
incomplete without taking into account its subjective aspect. 

In using the expression "the subjective aspect" about the 
notion "feeling responsible" in terms of the first person, we 
adopt an unfortunate, but by now generally accepted, termi- 
nology of the social sciences, which distinguishes between the 
subjective and the objective meaning of human actions, hu- 
man relations, and human situations. It was Max Weber who 
made this distinction the cornerstone of his methodology. 
Subjective meaning, in this sense, is the meaning that an action 
has for the actor or that a relation or situation has for the 
person or persons involved therein; objective meaning is the 
meaning the same action, relation, or situation has for any- 


220 / Determinism and Freedom 

body else — a partner or observer in everyday life, the social 
scientist, or the philosopher. The terminology is unfortunate 
because the term "objective meaning" is obviously a misnomer 
in that the so-called "objective" interpretations are in turn rela- 
tive to the particular attitudes of the interpreters and there- 
fore, in a certain sense, "subjective." 

To elaborate on the difference between the subjective and 
the objective meaning of responsibility would require a rather 
lengthy analysis. We have to restrict ourselves to some scanty 
remarks. If I feel merely subjectively responsible for what I 
did or omitted to do without being held answerable by another 
person, the consequence of my misdeed will not be reprehen- 
sion, criticism, censure, or another form of punishment in- 
flicted on me by someone else, but regret, remorse, or repent- 
ance — or, in theological terms, contrition and not attrition. 
The resulting states of grief, anguish, or distress are marks of 
the true sense of guilt that is phenomenologically something 
entirely different from the "guilt feeling" in psychoanalytic 
terminology. It is the outcome of the feeling of being respon- 
sible for something done or left undone and of the impossibil- 
ity of restoring the past. Orestes in Aeschylus' Eumenides was 
not redeemed before the goddess had reconciled the Furies, 
although the judges of the Areopagus had placed an equal 
number of white and black balls into the urn. In our times 
we find certain eminent scientists suffering under a deep-rooted 
sense of responsibility for having co-operated in the produc- 
tion of atomic weapons, in spite of the honours bestowed on 
them by a grateful government. On the other hand, the law 
might hold me answerable for an act that my personal sense 
of responsibility motivated me in performing (Antigone's 
conflict is an example). And here the distinction between be- 
ing responsible for something and being responsible to some- 
one appears in a new light. I may agree with the other's ver- 
dict that I am responsible for a particular state of affairs but 
maintain that I feel accountable for my deed merely to God 
or my conscience but not to my government. 

These are merely examples for the complicated underlying 
dialectic of t'ne subjective and the objective meaning of re- 
sponsibility. But the same dialectic underlies the meaning of a 
norm for the norm-giver and the norm-addressee. Any law 
means something different to the legislator, the person subject 
to the law (the law-abiding citizen and the lawbreaker), the 
law-interpreting court, and the agent who enforces it. Duty has 
a different meaning as defined by me autonomously and as im- 

Some Equivocations of the Notion of Responsibility / 221 

posed on me from outside. The whole question of determinism 
in law and ethics will have to be answered in a different way if . 
formulated in subjective or objective terms. 

The distinction between the subjective and the objective 
meaning of laws, values, morals, and responsibility merely 
from the point of view of the individual can also be made on 
the level of group relations. Adopting Sumner's classical dis- 
tinction between in-group and out-group, it can be said that 
responsibility, for example, has a different meaning if an in- 
group acknowledges responsibility for its acts and holds some 
of its members responsible, or if an out-group makes the in- 
group and its members responsible for misdeeds. It is one 
thing if, in the Nuremberg trials, the Nazi leaders were held 
responsible by the Allied Powers, and quite another thing if 
they were held answerable by the German people. 

Chapter 14 

Dennis Sciama, Trinity College, 
Cambridge University 

Professor Blanshard raised the question of our feeling that 
we have free will. He suggested that we are under an illusion 
and mentioned some psychological reasons for our mistake. 
I agree that we may be under an illusion, but I should like to 
suggest that the reasons may be logical rather than psychologi- 
cal I have in mind the fact that a computing machine, for 
instance, cannot know all about itself for the usual self- 
referential reasons. Similarly a brain cannot know all about 
itself and may therefore be unaware of some of the factors 
determining its behavior. This might then lead to the illusion 
that we have free will — an illusion that no amount of intro- 
spection could dispel. (Professor Feigl told me that this idea 
has been elaborated by Karl Popper in an article in the 
British Journal of the Philosophy of Science ^ — an article I 
have not seen.) 


Professor Munitz raised the question: What is knowledge? 
Perhaps a scientific comment on this question might be useful. 
If you walk into a laboratory and find a bar of metal that is 
much hotter at one end than the other, you infer that the bar 
must have been heated at one end. (The problem of justifying 
this inference is interesting, but I cannot go into it here.) In 
other words, the bar carries some information about the past. 
In a specialized sense the bar can be said to "know" some- 
thing about the past. To put it more abstractly: a macroscopic 
system that is substantially far from equilibrium carries infor- 
mation about the past and can be said, in a specialized sense, 
to "know" something about the past. 

Of course we usually want to mean something more than 
this when we use the word "knowledge." We want the system 

1 "Indetermmism ia Quantum Physics and Classical Physics" (1950), I. 

Observations / 223 

to know that it knows. This can be achieved with the human 
brain if we follow those theorists who suppose that inside the 
brain there is a neural circuit that partially maps the state of 
the brain as a whole. The brain then carries information by 
being far from equilibrium, and this information is mapped 
onto the special circuit, whose deviation from equilbrium en- 
ables the brain to know that it knows. 


Professor Lande raised the question how we are to under- 
stand the existence in nature of random or nearly random 
processes. Professor Frank suggested that one need only sup- 
pose that fields of force are sufficiently complicated. This is 
the conventional answer, but I agree with Lande that there is 
more to it than that. I do not know the answer, but I should 
like to mention some of the relevant considerations. 

As we trace back in time the world line of each atom par- 
taking of the random motion, we seek some moment at which 
we can say: the randomizing element is introduced here. This 
forces us to consider the cosmological problem concerned 
with the state of the universe a long time ago. Two possibili- 
ties are usually discussed in this connection. The first is that 
there was a singular moment about five billion years ago when 
all the material in the universe was crowded together at an 
infinitely high density. One must then assume that there was 
the required amount of randomness present at that time, a 
procedure that is perhaps somewhat ad hoc. The second pos- 
sibility is that the universe has the same large-scale appear- 
ance at all times, the dilution arising as the expansion of the 
universe is compensated by the continual creation of new 
matter. On this view, when one traces back the world line of 
an atom one comes to the point where it first appeared. Have 
we the right to say that this appearance is a random process? 
We cannot answer this question in the absence of a detailed 
theory of the process of creation, but it seems to me that this 
is the question that must be answered (or the corresponding 
one for the high-density singularity) before Lande's problem 
will be solved. 

Chapter 15 

Determinism and the 
Theory of Agency 

Richard Taylor, Brown University 

I SHALL NEITHER provc nor disprove determinism. Instead, I 
shall ( 1 ) give a precise statement of it, as I think Edwards 
and Hospers understand it, (2) show that it does, as they 
maintain, entail that men have no moral responsibilities, (3) 
elicit the defects of the usual answers to this claim, (4) indi- 
cate how a simple indeterminism supplies no better basis for 
responsibility, and (5) sketch a theory of agency that I think 
anyone insisting on moral responsibility must be driven to. 

Determinism. Determinism is the thesis that whatever oc- 
curs occurs under conditions given which nothing else could 
occur. Indeterminism is simply the minimum denial of this, 
viz., that at least some things occur under conditions given 
which something else could occur instead. But these state- 
ments need to be made precise. 

The modal term "could" expresses causal contingency, 
which I shall define in terms of causal or nomical necessity. 
There is, that is to say, a clear and common sense in which, 
for examole, a man who has been decapitated necessarily dies, 
or can not go on living; or, for another example, water heated 
to a certain point under certain conditions has to boil, though 
no logical necessities are here involved. 

Given, then, this sense of necessitation, we can define the 
other modal words in terms of it and reformulate determinism 
and indeterminism accordingly. Thus: 

e is impossible = — e is necessary, 

e is possible = — ( — e is necessary), 

e is contingent = — (e is necessary) • — ( — e is necessary), 
where e stands for any event whatever, and — e for any 
event incompatible with e. These definitions show that the 
possible and the contingent are not coextensive. 

Determinism, then, is the thesis that in the case of any true 
statement of the form "e occurs" the event whose name or 
description replaces "e" i" ca'""'!!" nccessitat«*d, nf ■t con- 
tingent. Indeterminism is the thesis that in the case of some 


Determinism and the Theory of Agency / 225 

true statement of that form, the event named or described is 

Responsibility. Edwards and Hospers believe that determin- 
ism is incompatible with responsibility and obligation on the 
basis, I believe, of the following argument. It is assumed (a) 
that responsibility and obligation, in their strictly ethical sense, 
if they have any application at all, figure only in the context 
of human conduct, not in that of the behavior of animals, and 
(b) that a necessary (not sufficient) condition for ascribing 
this responsibility to a man for what he has done, or obliga- 
tion for what he has yet to do, is that he could have done, or 
could do, something else; that is, that the occurrence for 
which he is responsible or obligated is contingent. But (c) 
this condition is never fulfilled. Hence (d) no man has ever 
been morally responsible for anything he has ever done, or 
wiU ever be morally obligated to do anything else. A coroUary 
of this is that the notions of "ought" and "ought not" have 
no application to human conduct in any sense in which they 
do not equally apply to the behavior of animals. 

"Soft determinism." Determinists unwilling to accept this 
conclusion have tried several rejoinders, of which I shall cite, 
and reject, the four most common. 

1. It is said that, even assuming determinism, the necessary 
condition for responsibility is often fulfilled, for to say that 
an agent could have done otherwise means only that he would 
have done otherwise had he chosen to. 

But this neglects the fact that, if determinism is true, he 
could not have chosen otherwise. Indeed, by this kind of 
argument, one could say that, though a man has died of 
decapitation, he did not have to die, that he could have lived 
on — meaning only that he would have lived had he somehow 
kept his head on! And this is hardly the sort of contingency 
we want. 

2. Again, it is said that a sufficient condition for ascribing 
moral responsibility is that an agent act from deliberation 
with knowledge of the consequences, and that this condition 
is often fulfilled. 

But this presupposes the necessary condition for such re- 
sponsibility that according to determinism is never fulfilled, 
for, as Hart reminded us (citing Aristotle), it makes sense to 
deliberate only about things that are, or are believed to be, 
contingent. This point becomes clear if we remind ourselves 
that, according to determinism, not only is a man's behavior 
causally necessitated (among other things, by the course of 

226 / Determinism and Freedom 

his deliberations), but so also is every step and detail of his 
dehberations, and so also are his beliefs (true or false) 
about the future, and hence his beliefs concerning the effects 
of his actions. Under these conditions one can no more 
ascribe moral responsibility to a man than to a robot who 
"deliberates," and then "acts," in response to our pushing 
various buttons (labeled "deliberate" etc.), every step of the 
chain then following by causal necessity. 

3. Determinists sometimes say that we are, after all, re- 
sponsible only for our acts, not our intentions, choices, or 
decisions. A man is not punished or rewarded for deciding to 
do something unless he then goes ahead and does it, and since 
even advocates of "free will" concede that our acts are caus- 
ally determined (by our choices or "wills," for instance), 
there is evidently no absurdity in being held responsible for 
what is determined. 

But an indeterminist is not likely to concede that all our 
acts are causally determined. Moreover, this view conceives 
of responsibility only in terms of reward and punishment, con- 
fusing moral responsibility with corrigibility. What I am re- 
ferring to as moral responsibility comes out more clearly if 
we consider cases in which no questions of law, no questions 
of benefiting or harming others, and no questions of reward, 
punishment, or retribution are at all involved. If, for instance, 
an intelligent man studies what is in fact a valid philosophical 
argument, understands it, accepts the premises as true and the 
reasoning as valid, and yet refuses to accept the conclusion, 
there is no philosopher, save those who deny obligation al- 
together, who would not say that he ought to accept the con- 
clusion. But here no overt act is involved, but only a decision, 
and no question of reward, punishment, or retribution comes 
into the picture, much less one of legality. It cannot be true, 
therefore, that men have no responsibilities or obligations 
with respect to their decisions, unless it should turn out that 
they have no responsibilities or obligations whatever. 

4. Finally, many determinists have said that moral respon- 
sibility consists only in amenability to a change of behavior 
through the force of real or anticipated rewards or punish- 
ments; in other words, that responsibility simply consists in 
corrigibility — a view that not only is compatible with deter- 
minism but presupposes it. 

This definition of responsibility, however, violates what was 
assumed at the outset — namely, that lower animals have nei- 
ther moral obligations nor responsibilities. The behavior of 

Determinism and the Theory of Agency / 227 

almost any sentient thing — rodents and fish, for instance — is 
alterable by the stimulus of reward or punishment. Moreover, 
this queer conception of moral responsibility and obligation, 
in addition to applying to situations to which moral concepts 
do not apply, fails to cover cases of the sort we just con- 
sidered. For when one says that a man ought to accept a con- 
clusion, in the light of probative evidence known to him, he 
does not mean merely that he can be induced to do so by 
threat or reward; indeed, the obligation might hold when this 
condition does not. 

I regard it as reasonable, then, that if determinism is true 
no man has ever been morally responsible for anything he has 
ever done, and no man ever will be under any obligation to 
do anything. This is a painful conclusion to accept, particu- 
larly in view of the fact that, if one does accept it, one can 
try to persuade others to do so only by threats, blows, or 
arguments, but can never say that tiicy ought to accept it, 
even if it is proved. But the conclusion may well be true none- 
theless, for it seems to be entailed by what most philosophers 
regard as obviously true, viz., determinism. 

Indeterminism. The denial of determinism, however, seems 
no more compatible with moral judgment than determinism, 
for it would seem to rob human actions, in Liebnitz's phrase, 
of any "rhyme or reason." Since this thought is fairly familiar 
I shall not elaborate it but only illustrate it. 

Suppose an agent so constituted that his actions are deter- 
mined by the numbers that turn up on a roulette wheel, and 
suppose, further, that the wheel obeys no causal laws what- 
ever, so that its behavior is unpredictable in principle. Now, 
it would be plainly irrational to consider an agent so consti- 
tuted morally responsible for those acts or obligated to per- 
form others, since they are obviously utterly beyond his con- 
trol; yet this situation corresponds exactly, so far as moral 
judgment is concerned, to that of an agent whose acts are 
quite undetermined. -^ 

Agency. To salvage moral responsibility one must resort to 
certain odd metaphysical notions that have long since been 
out of fashion and that are admittedly most difficult to com- 
prehend clearly. What is needed, that is, is a view according 
to which (a) there is a reason for everything that happens, 
but {b) some such happenings — viz., some human acts — are 
contingent. The only way of satisfying these seemingly in- 
compatible requirements is to suppose that an act for which 
an agent is responsible is performed by him, but that he, in 

228 / Determinism and Freedom 

turn, is not causally necessitated to do it. Now, this does, I 
think, accord with what men take themselves to be — namely, 
agents (cf. Latin agere) or beings that act rather than things 
all aspects of whose behavior are the causal consequences of 
the way they are acted upon. It now remains to elicit just 
what this theory involves, and see whether it is compatible 
with responsibility. 

First, then, it involves the conception of a self or person 
(i.e., an agent) that is not merely a congeries or series of 
states or events, for on this view it is an agent who performs 
certain acts (i.e., who acts) rather than states or events in his 
history that causally determine them — these states or events 
being, presumably, if not things done by himself, then simply 
the causal consequences of other states or events, whether of 
his own history or that of other things. 

Second, it involves an extraordinary conception of causa- 
tion, according to which something that is not an event can 
nevertheless bring about an event — a conception, that is, ac- 
cording to which a "cause" can be something other than a 
sufficient condition; for if we say that a person is the "cause" 
of his act, we are not saying that he is a sufficient condition 
for its occurrence, since he plainly is not. We must accord- 
ingly not speak of an agent as causing an act, since "being a 
cause" ordinarily just means "being a sufficient condition," 
but rather of his originating it or, simply, of his performing it 
— in a manner in which things in the physical world, so far 
as we know, are never done or brought about. And this is 
evidently the conception of Aristotle, who spoke of living 
things as "self -moved," It is also what later philosophers, like 
Thomas Reid, meant by "active power," viz., the power to 
act without being acted upon, and it may be what Kant meant 
when he obscurely spoke of a "noumenal" self that is free. 
I Now, both of these conceptions — that of an agent as dis- 
tinct from the states or events of his history, and that of 
performing as distinct from being a sufficient condition — are 
certainly odd and hard to conceive of clearly. Indeed, a phil- 
osopher could not be accused of stubbornness if he preferred 
to give up moral responsibility to embracing these two no- 
tions. But I am sure that only by accepting them can one also 
accept the notions of moral responsibility, obligation, and 
what Professor Hook referred to as "dignity." 

It still remains to see, however, whether this conception of 
agency is compatible with responsibility. To show that it is, 
it needs to be shown that on this view (a) some human acts 

Determinism and the Theory of Agenqf / 229 

are contingent, in the sense defined; (b) animals are not ren- 
dered morally responsible; and (c) acts do not arise "without 
rhyme or reason," i.e., are not capricious. 

With regard to the first point: some acts are contingent on 
this view, for they are not simply the causal consequences of 
antecedent conditions. Now, it will be tempting to say that 
there must be sufficient conditions for an agent's doing just 
what he does, but this simply begs the question, being just 
what the theory denies. There are certainly always conditions 
under which any event occurs, but such conditions do not 
in all cases necessitate just that event to the exclusion of any 
other; otherwise there would be no such thing as an act, nor 
would anything ever be done. We may further assume that for 
j any act that is performed, there are reasons why it is per- 
formed; but such reasons need not be causal conditions. 
Rather, they may be, for example, motives or purposes, which 
lare not sufficient conditions. To say, for instance, that an 
agent acted in a certain way in order to achieve a certain 
purpose is to give an explanation, but not a causal one, for his 
conduct. And if it is now insisted that there must, in any case, 
be conditions sufficient for an agent's having just such pur- 
poses and motives as he has, this may or may not be true 
(I think it is not); it is in any case irrelevant, for it would 
mean that only his purposes and motives — but not thereby 
his acts — are causally determined. 

Secondly, as to the question whether this theory would 
render animals morally responsible: it evidently would not. 
If animals are "self-moving," as Aristotle thought, they do 
indeed satisfy a necessary condition for responsibility; but it 
does not follow that they satisfy any suflftcient condition for it, 
and, in fact, they evidently do not. 

Finally, as to the question whether this theory avoids capri- 
ciousness in human acts: it plainly does not, // by "capricious" 
nothing more is meant than "contingent." That is, it does 
deny that there are conditions sufficient for the occurrence of 
all events that occur. But it does not deny that there is an 
explanation or reason for every event, as we have just seen, 
for there are ways of explaining a man's conduct otherwise 
than by a recitation of causal conditions. The concept of 
agency, then, is quite unlike that of a thing whose behavior 
is arranged to coincide with the random selections of a rou- 
lette; for, assuming the wheel to be causally undetermined, 
there is no ultimate explanation for the roulette's behavior, 
whereas there is for the agent's. Moreover, saying of an agent 

230 / Detenninism and Freedom 

that he acts makes sense; but we cannot conceive of a wheel 
— no agent at all — as "deciding" what is to be "done." 

Conclusion. I do not claim to have proved a theory of 
agency, but I believe I have shown that, if it is intelligible, it 
renders moral responsibility possible. The conditions of moral 
responsibility can thus be elicited, in terms of agency, as 

Consider a situation in which some object O grasps a knife 
and cuts off a man's hand. Now assume: (1) there were no 
conditions sufficient for this event — i.e., it was contingent; 
(2) O is an agent, e.g., a man; (3) the event described is an 
act of O's and not, for example, a reflex; (4) O realized, 
while contemplating the act, what it consisted in, and (5) he 
knew what its consequences would be, and that they would be 

A. Each of these assumptions can be true, and they can all 
be true together; that is, there is no proposition known to be 
true with which the conjunction of these five is causally or 
logically incompatible. 

B. If (1) were false, O would not be morally responsible 
for the event described. 

C. Hence neither (2), nor (3), (4), nor (5) is a sufficient 
condition for responsibility; nor are these four together suffi- 
cient, except as they may presuppose (1). 

D. But (1), (2), (3), (4), and (5) are each a necessary 
condition for moral responsibility for this event, and 

E. Together they are sufficient. 

If one denies E one must, I believe, either deny B, as 
Edwards and Hospers do not, or else deny A, which would 
seem arbitrary and implausible. 

Chapter 16 

Commera Seiise @n4 Beyond 
Paul Weiss, Yale University 

A GOOD DEAL of Contemporary discussion of the problem of 
determinism and freedom rests on a number of unexamined 
but rather dubious assumptions. No untU these are brought 
to the fore, and either modified or replaced, can there, I think, 
be much hope of progress toward the solution of this per- 
plexing basic issue. One of the conspicuous virtues of Mr. 
Blanshard's and Mr. Black's papers is that they so evidently 
make these assumptions. Despite their apparent difference in 
outlook and conclusion, the two are substantially in accord. 
Their quarrel is an intramural one; the basic issue is blurred 
and avoided by both with equal success. 

A surprisingly large group of thinkers today suppose that 
untutored common sense is beyond legitimate criticism. Many 
of those who make this assumption deny that philosophy has 
any problems of its own. There is, according to them, only the 
problem of understanding how it is that philosophers should 
think there are problems. Mr. Blanshard and Mr. Black are 
happily free of this folly, but they, like the others, are in 
accord in their acceptance of the testimony of untutored com- 
mon sense. But it is surely the case that there is no single 
coherent, consistent body of common-sense truth. The com- 
mon-sense man, whether don or plain citizen, mixes shrewd 
observation and practical wisdom with folly, superstition, 
prejudice, and convention. Men of good common sense to- 
day believe in the efficacy of individual prayers, in the wisdom 
of having ministers of warring nations look to God for aid, 
in mental telepathy, in a double sexual standard, in thrift, in 
the agreement and profundity of scientists, and so on. It is 
good common sense to claim that chalk is white because it 
is seen to be so. But when twilight comes and the chalk ap- 
pears grayish it is also good common sense to insist that the 
chalk remains white, though it is seen not to be. The state- 
ment "If I don't wear rubbers when it rains, I'll catch cold" 


232 / Determinism and Freedom 

is for many a robust common-sense man as root and firm as 
any other and could be treated as a paradigm. 

Any view that wholly abandons common sense is at best 
a fiction or a fantasy. Any view that refuses to examine it is 
at best uncritical and dogmatic. Reflection and reason require 
one to stand somewhere between these two extremes. Taking 
into account whatever else needs explanation, one should try 
to forgo accounts that do maximum justice to what is daily 
experienced. This maximum justice is consistent with the 
abandonment of this or that phase of common sense if it is in 
conflict with a larger body of coherent, clarified knowledge. 
We ought to begin with some such simple fact as that a man 
acts or, more specifically, that certain events ensue upon his 
behaving in certain ways and, as experience shows, do not 
ensue when he does not so act. We will then not know yet 
whether the act was freshly initiated and freely carried out. 
To achieve this knowledge we go beyond common sense in 
order to obtain more abstract, consistent, and comprehensive 
accounts than common sense can provide. 

It is good common sense to say that whatever occurs is de- 
termined, and it is good common sense to say that men act 
freely. Were a systematic treatment of man in his diverse en- 
terprises and an understanding of time, motion, causation, 
mathematics, and science to make determinism the most co- 
herent and illuminating outlook, we should have to conclude 
that, though common sense often says that a man acts freely, 
this would have to be understood merely as shorthand for the 
remark that he is the occasion, or the most proximate source, 
of an energy expended for the transformation of some objec- 
tive combination of facts. On the other hand, if a satisfactory 
account of man and these other matters required an acknowl- 
edgement of an element of chance, novelty, or freedom in 
the universe, we should have to conclude that the Sequent 
common-sense assertion that all acts are determined reflects 
the failure of common sense to make use of fine discrimina- 
tions, its refusal to pursue reflections, and its incapacity to 
reason in the precise fashion that is necessary if subtle truths 
are to be grasped. 

The contention that men are determined and the contention 
that they are free seem opposed. They are not. Determinism 
applies to what has happened when all the conditions are 
already present and fulfilled. Freedom applies to what is hap- 
pening and will happen; it concerns the creation of new con- 

Common Sense and Beyond / 233 

ditions and thus of consequences that until then have not 
been necessitated. 


Most discussions of freedom do not distinguish among ( 1 ) 
freedom from, (2) freedom to, (3) freedom for, and (4) 
freedom with. 

1. Whenever men are subject to unusual or unconventional 
restraints we think of them as being compelled; when those 
constraints are removed we think of them as freed, and speak 
of them as free. Thus we say that the released slave is a free 

2. Freedom to is the power to act either inwardly as a 
being of intent or outwardly as one who can publicly express 
his wishes or carry out his obligations. Thus we say that he 
who wishes to take drugs, and can, is free to take them; and 
that he who ought to pay his debts and has the money to do 
so is free to pay them. 

3. Freedom for is the power to commit oneself to an end 
and to work to bring it about. This end may be set by society 
or the state; one's commitment to it might be a function of 
heredity and training. But the capacity to put oneself in a 
position to focus on this end and engage in activity to bring 
it about is to have a freedom for. Thus we say that men are 
at their best when they have been made free for a civilized life 
of leisure. 

4. Finally, we are men in a society and men in a cosmos, 
and whatever freedom we may express is largely futile or 
frustrated if it does not intermesh with that exercised by 
others. Thus we say that we are genuinely free only when we 
are in harmony with equally free fellow men. 

Each of these types of freedom has a number of distinct 
cases. Most interesting perhaps are those that fall under the 
second and third types, for these are most germane to ques- 
tions of morality and ethics. It is most helpful, I think, to 
distinguish among freedom of preference, of choice, and of 
will. Freedom of preference refers to the selection of some 
means to an accepted goal, good or bad. Freedom of choice 
concerns the formation of a single unity of means and end, 
where the end promises to make good whatever loss in value 
the means involve. Freedom of will, finally, is related to the 
adoption of a final prescriptive good in such a way as to 
require a fresh approach to whatever means there are. Free- 
dom of preference allows for a determinism dictating which 

234 / Determinism and Freedom 

among a number of goals will be found most agreeable, and 
which means most appealing; it is a freedom connected with 
the joining of goals and alternative means, with a consequent 
mutual alteration in their import and a possible substitution of 
means. Freedom of choice allows for a determinism dictating 
which means will be favored; but it also requires a freedom 
through which a compensating end is adopted and the means 
previously favored re-evaluated and perhaps rejected. Finally, 
freedom of will allows for a determinism that dictates why, 
and perhaps even when, the will should be exercised, while 
leaving free the exercise of the will in this way or that, with 
this or that consequence. 

There are surely other meanings of freedom besides these. 
But enough has been indicated, perhaps, to show that we can- 
not settle the problem of determinism and freedom until we 
have decided just what type of freedom, and thus what anti- 
thetical sense of determinism, we wish to consider. 


It is commonly assumed that prediction and determinism 
are either equivalent or identical, or that one follows neces- 
sarily from the other. But none of these suppositions are cor- 
rect. Prediction is a prediction, a saying in advance what is to 
ensue. In the ideal case it consists in the deduction, through 
the agency of mathematics and logic, of the nature of the 
effect that rationally follows from the given condition. Now, 
all deductions are in terms of generalities, of expressions that 
lack the completeness and concreteness characteristic of ac- 
tual occurrences. Predictions thus relate only to a phase, an 
aspect, of the world, to something generic, to be instanced by 
what in fact occurs. The occurrence of the instance is not 
encompassed in the prediction; it could have been determin- 
istically produced, though in that case we should not have 
been able to say anything about it in advance, or even per- 
haps when it occurred. Conversely, predictability is compati- 
ble with freedom. Predictability, since it concerns only kinds 
of things, the generic features, the merely possible, allows 
for the free occurrence of this or that particular instance. 

Most thinkers confuse the problem of prediction with that 
of determinism because they are phenomenologists in doc- 
trine or in intent, and suppose that what scientists affirm to 
be real, or what common sense observes, is all there is in the 
universe. Yet a scientific account that requires the acknowl- 
edgement of determinacies or indeterminacies in the world 

Ck>inmon Sense and Beyond / 235 

tells us nothing about the nature of things, but only about 
that phase of existence isolated and pursued in common ways 
by a community of thinkers. In the end we have no right to 
say that anything completely beyond all knowledge is real. 
But it does not follow that what is beyond the reach of sci- 
entific instruments, scientific needs, scientific procedures, and 
scientific tests is beyond the reach of aU cognition and out- 
side the pale of meaningful and illuminating discourse. Poetic 
insight, dialectical deduction, speculative construction, sys- 
tematic explanation all make claims not to be dismissed out 
of hand. The concurrence of these is required if we are to 
know whether determinism or freedom holds sway in this 

A scientific indeterminism is compatible with an ontological 
determinism; a scientific determinism is compatible with an 
ontological indeterminism. The wise scientist makes no claim 
that he is able to deal with or to know anything about the 
universe outside the scope of his language, instruments, 
experiments, or criteria. More often than not it is the philoso- 
pher who hurries to convert a laudable scientific methodologi- 
cal caution into an unwarranted claim that what science does 
not know is either not knowable or nonexistent, and who 
makes the uncritical contention that what science treats as a 
desirable supposition or a genuine fact is to be urged as a 
solid and unquestionable basic truth. 


The importance of the problem of ethical responsibility 
makes most thinkers attend to the question of freedom only 
as it relates to man. Almost all writers in the western world 
today are clearly, and sometimes even outspokenly, anthro- 
pocentric. Confident that the world of nature is thoroughly 
determined (except perhaps in the region of quanta phenom- 
ena), they insist that man, at least if ethics is to have any 
meaning and responsibility a locus, is somehow free. But their 
position involves the cutting off of man from nature. It is a 
view that is incompatible with the theory of evolution, and 
in the end it deals with man as though he were "a kingdom 
in a kindgdom." To be sure, man is different from other 
beings; he has and can exercise powers denied to them. But 
the powers that they do have must fall under categories com- 
prehending his, if both he and they are to be parts of the same 

236 / Determinism and Freedom 

The nature of causation has been oversimplified to make it 
seem as if there were only two factors to consider, the cause 
and the effect. As a consequence the discussion of causation 
has been riddled with paradox. 

A cause must precede its effect. That is why history can 
cover an extensive stretch of time. This means that the cause 
cannot necessitate the effect. If it did, the effect would exist 
when the cause did. What is normally termed a cause is only 
an antecedent condition. The nature of the effect is defined 
by it, and can often be predicted in the light of what we 
know of it. But the cause does not produce the effect that in 
fact ensues. The actual effect comes about as the result of an 
activity that, taking its start with the cause, ends by producing 
an instance of the predictable effect. The causal situation, 
then, has not two but three components; the cause, the process 
of production, and the effect. Since freedom is the doing of 
something beyond the determination by a cause, the process 
of production is evidently free. An actual effect is freely 
produced inside a frame that necessarily binds together an 
antecedent cause and a predictable type of effect. 

These observations, it is hoped, may suffice to indicate that 
we ought not to be content with uncriticized common sense, 
with the hypotheses or conclusions of the sciences, or with 
the traditional philosophic formulations of the problem of 
determinism. We ought to take our start with common-sense 
items, examine them critically, and then move on to what 
they presuppose; that is, to a systematic account encompass- 
ing man and nature and whatever else there is. If we are 
willing to make provision for every facet of being and knowl- 
edge, we shall soon find that no untutored common sense, no 
rationalism, no anthropocentrism, no simple empiricism or 
positivism, no theory of a radical opposition between deter- 
minism and freedom, will do justice to the facts or to the 
need to get a coherent explanation of them. 

Chapter 1 7 

H. Van Rensselar Wilson, Brooklyn College 

There are two kinds of problems connected with causation: 
epistemological problems and ontological or metaphysical 
problems. Although they are interrelated in various ways, it is 
possible for purposes of analysis to keep them relatively dis- 
tinct, and in my opinion it is important that confusion be- 
tween them be avoided so far as possible. It therefore strikes 
me as unfortunate to speak (as Professor Barrett does) as 
though predictability (an epistemological concept) were syn- 
onymous with causal necessity (an ontological concept). Lack 
of causal necessity would certainly entail lack of predicta- 
bility; but I see no reason to assume that lack of predictability 
entails lack of causal necessity. The fact that the epistemo- 
logical difficulties in sociological, psychological, and many 
biological situations preclude our knowing what all the spe- 
cific relevant causal factors are in a particular case does not 
warrant the conclusion that there are none. Present inability 
to specify the values of a variable can hardly be construed as 
evidence that no such values exist. 

Professor Black used a very brief illustration that has a 
bearing on this point. He remarked that when a penny is 
tossed into the air it has to come down, but it does not have 
to come down tails. Now, I have no quarrel with this remark 
if it is simply meant to assert two epistemological proposi- 
tions: (1) knowing only that the penny was tossed up, but 
not knowing in what precise direction, with what precise 
force, with what kinds of spin, how it lay in my hand before- 
hand, what kind of surface it will strike, and so on, we are 
warranted in asserting (without specifying when, where, or 
how) that it has to come down; but (2) in the absence of 
fuller information neither the statement "It has to come down 
heads" nor the statement "It has to come down tails" is a 
warranted assertion. But in the context of a discussion of 
causal determinism one tends to construe Professor Black's 
remark as denying that there is causal necessity in a particu- 


238 / Determinism and Freedom 

lar case of the penny's coming down tails, which is a very 
different matter. The difficulties of measuring even approxi- 
mately the momentum and spin of a tossed penny — to say 
nothing of doing so precisely enough for safe prediction — are 
obvious. But surely this does not alter the fact that, irrespec- 
tive of anyone's knowledge or lack of it, the penny has a 
specific momentum and spin, and that if all the data were 
precisely known it would be clear that the penny "has to'.' 
come down the way it does. 

The fact that five hundred years ago no one could have 
computed the penny's trajectory even if precise data had been 
available, whereas today we can, is beside the point, of course. 
If the trajectory is admittedly necessitated by computable 
causal factors today, then similar trajectories were always 
necessitated. The unavoidable analogy between (1) a fif- 
teenth-century physicist in relation to today's physicist and 
(2) today's neurologist (let us say) in relation to an imagin- 
able twenty-fifth-century neurologist needs no elaboration. 
The analogy proves nothing, to be sure; but it should give us 
pause, restraining our tendency to equate absence of knowl- 
edge of precise data and formulas with absence of existence 
of precise states of affairs and objective correlations in fields 
where they are not currently specifiable. 

Causal necessity in a particular case, I would contend, is 
holistic with respect to the relevant controlling factors rather 
than fragmental with respect to those factors; that is, causal 
necessity is a concept that is meaningful only as a function of 
all the relevant causal factors (material, formal, and efficient), 
whether known or unknown, taken collectively. Fragmentally 
(i.e., when not even one relevant factor is taken account of) 
neither assertion nor denial of causal necessity in a given case 
would be warranted, although one could certainly form 
hypotheses, for conceivable future testing, about what sorts 
of currently unavailable data would need to become available 
in order to complete the picture. A basic heuristic postulate 
for determinism is that it is worth while without limit to 
fonnulate and (as it becomes possible) to test experimentally 
such hypotheses regarding currently missing causal factors, 
since (the determinist assumes) every instance of apparent 
lack of causal necessity is an instance of fragmental knowl- 
edge of the relevant causal factors. The pragmatic effects on 
the future development of science of proceeding (without 
proof) as if this assumption were true and of proceeding as if 
it were false are quite evident. 

On Causation / 239 

Professor Blanshard's suggestion that there are levels of 
causation is one with which I agree, if I may construe it as 
referring primarily to the levels of complexity of the relevant 
causal factors in various types of situations, and secondarily 
to the levels of concomitant epistemological difficulty in ascer- 
taining without error or omission (1) what all the relevant 
factors are about which specific information is needed before 
we can specify the holistic causal necessity in such situations, 
(2) the specific formulas that would adequately formulate 
the relevant causal laws, and (3) the precise value of the 
variables to be substituted in the relevant formulas in a par- 
ticular case. For the tossed penny most of the data that 
would be relevant at a more specific level are irrelevant when 
we only wish to assert nonspecifically that it must come down 
sometime, somewhere, somehow. We may therefore ignore 
such data and still assert causal necessity without using the 
concept (at this level) fragmentally. 

When we assert that there is holistic causal necessity in the 
penny's coming down tails in a specific case, the domain of 
relevance is much vaster and the epistemological difficulties 
far greater, but the relevant formulas and data are still theoret- 
ically within the scope of current physics and current observa- 
bility. In asking, however, whether the tosser "had to" decide 
to toss the penny one enters a level of complexity and diffi- 
culty where only fragmental consideration of the relevant 
factors is currently possible, and from fragmental considera- 
tion no specifiable necessity can emerge, any more than it 
could from a fragmental consideration of the factors in the 
penny's trajectory. This being the case, the pertinent questions 
would seem to be not those about current knowledge and 
predictability but rather the frankly speculative, as yet un- 
tested, hypotheses and assumptions about the factors that 
still elude us, entailing a projected program of further inquiry 
that is believed (without proof, but equally without disproof) 
to be worth pursuing in the hope of gradually reducing our 
ignorance. In these terms I agree with Professor Blanshard (as 
I understand him) that to assume, for animate and human 
and societal cases as for inanimate cases, that holistic causal 
necessity exists, as a function not merely of some or most but 
collectively of all the revelant causal factors involved (regard- 
less of their complexity and our current inability to specify 
them exhaustively), makes more sense than it does to assume, 
as indeterminists do, that no such causal necessity exists even 
as a function of all the relevant causal factors, known and 

240 / Detenninism and Freedom 

unknown, or to assume (as Professor Barrett appears to do) 
that absence of specifiable causal necessity in terms of a 
fragmental consideration of those factors that happen to be 
currently known is to be equated with absence of causal 
necessity altogether. 


We would all agree, I suppose, that the verb "to determine" 
has two independent meanings which are not to be confused: 
(1) to ascertain, or obtain information about; and (2) to 
necessitate, or to be related to a dependent variable in such 
a way as to render all but one of its values impossible. "Cur- 
rently ascertainable" is surely not synonymous with "existing 
in a definite state," nor is "epistemologically determinable" 
synonymous with "ontologically determinate." And yet we 
seem to find ourselves speaking at times almost as if "having 
no currently measurable difference" were synonymous with 
"having absolutely no difference," and even as if "present 
human inability to determine (ascertain) the state of affairs" 
were synonymous with "ontological indeterminacy of the state 
of affairs." 

Possibly the trouble arises from an unfortunate semantic 
assumption that meaningful terms include only those for 
which operational tests are currently performable and exclude 
those for which such tests are conceived only and not cur- 
rently feasible to perform. But so to restrict meaning is dis- 
astrous to theoretical speculation. To forbid, by arbitrary 
semantic fiat, hypothetical discussion of situations that cur- 
rently preclude our ascertaining precise values for the rele- 
vant variables, or for which we have not yet been able to 
formulate any applicable differential equations, would seem 
to exhibit a defeatist attitude that is utterly foreign to the 
history of science. 

When Professor Lande speaks about dropping ball bearings 
from a chute onto a knife edge, he seems to make the tacit 
assumption that the several occurrences are mathematically 
identical, except for the random falling to left and right. He 
would undoubtedly agree, however, that the most that could 
be validly asserted about the objective state of affairs is that 
the actual differences (if any) among the occurrences are too 
slight to be detected by available measuring devices. But does 
this justify the assumption that there are no differences? 
Someone has suggested performing the experiment in a vac- 
uum to avoid stray currents of air, I agree. But that is not 

On Causation / 241 

sufficient. Slight but definite deviations from mathematical 
sphericity or from absolutely homogeneous density, even if 
undetectable by available instruments, would presumably 
affect the results, and even if such factors were completely 
controllable, the knife edge itself would lose a few molecules 
of material each time a ball struck it and the next ball would 
therefore strike a knife edge of slightly different shape. Unless 
one insists on equating "below the threshold of detectability 
with currently available instruments" with "mathematically 
infinitesimal," there is no relevance to the objection that in- 
finitesimal differences in the conditions could not account for 
finite differences in the outcome. I see no logical inconsistency 
in positing the hypothesis that in such an experiment there is 
no randomness in the outcome of really identical events, but 
varying behavior under varjdng conditions in accordance with 
perfectly definite formulas — a hypothesis that will become 
progressively testable as measuring techniques become pro- 
gressively more refined. No new or "hidden" variables are 
here involved, but merely slight, uncontrolled differences in 
the values of the familiar variables. 

These slight, imcontroUed differences in the conditions are, 
I suppose, the "phantom knife edge suspended above the 
actual knife edge," to which Professor Land6 alluded. But I 
see no other way out without a quite needless retreat from 
essential scientific attitudes. A basic programmatic decision 
is involved. One alternative is to accept "inherent randomness 
of nature" as an explanation of the observed facts, in which 
case no program of further experimentation and theoretical 
refinement is called for, since one already has the "explana- 
tion," such as it is. The other alternative is to act upon a heu- 
ristic postulate that construes the phenomenon of apparent 
randomness, wherever observed and quite unconditionally, as 
a challenge to the experimenter to refine his measurements or 
his theory or both imtil determinate orderliness replaces the 
randomness — assuming that eventually it will, if he and his 
successors persist. Instead of interpreting this assumption (as 
Professor Munitz seems to do) as implying a belief that the 
universe is like a humanly constructed "puzzle" that one as- 
sumes to have a "solution" merely because puzzles are always 
constructed that way, I would interpret it as inextricably 
involved in the basic attitude of scientific curiosity itself, 
without which there would never have been any science and 
in the absence of which further scientific advancement would 
stop cold. Without celestial mechanics the places where sue- 

242 / Determinism and Freedom 

cessive solar eclipses are visible give every appearance of 
randomness. Without meteorology the weather has every 
appearance of randomness. Is it not scientific defeatism to 
assume that contemporary types of randomness are more in- 
vincible than these? 

At the risk of appearing utterly stupid to the experts in 
quantum mechanics, I must still ask, How does anyone know, 
beyond all doubt, that every photon is identical with every 
other photon? Not long ago we thought that every hydrogen 
atom was identical with every other, but then we discovered 
deuterium and tritium. Is there any logical absurdity in the 
hypothesis that when and if we reach a higher degree of pre- 
cision we shall find (as often in the past) our current instances 
of apparent randomness exhibiting determinate order after 

Of course we might then discover new instances of appar- 
ent randomness at the new level, and thus be faced with the 
same choice again — either admit defeat and accept "inherent 
randomness of nature" as the answer or act again on the 
former heuristic postulate. But this should not surpise us. The 
"erratic" orbits of Uranus and then of Neptune were not 
treated as instances of randomness but as challenges. If some- 
time, with more precise measurements, we find that Pluto too 
is behaving in random fashion, would we quit or proceed as 
before? Determinists and indeterminists might appear to 
sanction opposite answers to such a question. 


I make only two very brief comments on the papers of 
Edwards and Hospers. 

1. There may be some danger of mistakenly supposing 
that an actual cause of an effect is somehow less a cause if it 
can be shown to have prior causes of its own. But this would 
be like supposing that I am somehow less the father of my 
children because I in turn have a father. If I am really the 
cause of my decisions, I am no less so after it is shown that, 
in addition to being the cause of these and other effects, I am 
also the product of earlier causes. Whatever moral responsi- 
bility I have for my decisions, I have as their proximate cause, 
and the responsibility is not diminished by showing that re- 
sponsible selves (as well as irresponsible selves) have causes. 

2. The relation of one's "self" or character to one's de- 
cisions and actions is sometimes such that (a) a modification 
of the self would result in a modification of future behavior 

On Causation / 243 

in similar sitiiations, and the self is modifiable by praise, 
blame, and other manifestations of approval and disapproval 
from other persons (including courts of law) and from one's 
own conscience; while at other times it is such that (b) either 
the self is not thus modifiable, or such modification would 
not result in modified future behavior. In ordinary language 
we call the person "responsible" in case a and "not respon- 
sible" in case b. If Professors Edwards and Hospers are as- 
serting that all human actions come under category b, then 
I think the empirical facts are clearly against them. On the 
other hand, if they agree that there are actions that come 
under category a but simply refuse to call such actions "re- 
sponsible," then I think linguistic usage is against them. Also, 
I think they would then be imder obligation to introduce some 
new terms of their own as a translation of the quite essential 
distinction between a and b, which otherwise seems to dis- 



Agreement, method of, 165 

Ambiguity, 202 

Analysis, 96, 160, 169 

Analytic: expressions, 172n, 
217; implication, 166, 217; 
philosophy, 201 

Anthropology, 211 

Aristotle, 30, 128, 225, 228-29 

Art, 51-2 

Association of ideas, 26, 28 

Augustine, St., 190 

Austin, J. L., 105 

Avoidability: as criterion of re- 
sponsibility, 157ff, 214-16; 
conditional, 158 

Axiom: of retribution, 193; of 
scientific method, 69, 70 

Ayer, A. J., 118, 140-41 

Barrett, W., 46, 237, 240 
Barth, K., 190 
Beardsley, E. L., 145 
Benfey, O. T„ 67n 
Bentham, J., 105, 106 
Bergler, E., 132n 
Bergson, H., 46 
Black, M., 31, 46, 181, 196-97, 

201ff, 216-17, 231, 237 
Blanshard, B., 19, 47ff, 158, 

170ff, 181-82, 196-97, 207, 

212ff, 222, 231, 239 
Bohm, D., 57 
Bohr, N., 57flF, 89 
Bom, M., 22, 57ff, 89 
Boundary and initial conditions, 

90-1, 185, 198, 204ff 
Bradley, F. H., 118 
Brandt, R., 149 
Bridgman, P. W., 57, 76ff, 155, 

183ff, 197-98, 201, 210 

Bunge, M., 57, 69ff 

Calvin, 190 

Campbell. C. A., 122-23, 146- 
47, 188-89, 215 

Carnap, R., 26 

Cassirer, E., 67-8 

Causality: and anthropomorph- 
ism, 37ff, 139-40; and con- 
stant conjunction, 26ff, 40-1, 
163ff, 202ff; and "making 
something happen," 3 Iff; def- 
nition of, 36ff, 130, 163ff, 
197, 202ff, 215-16, 236ff; 
language of, 43-4; levels of, 
26ff, 146ff, 173-74, 239; me- 
chanical, 202-3; mental, 26, 
27, 118ff, 126ff, 167-68, 177, 
226; metaphysical, 39, 227ff; 
physical, 22ff, 37ff, 58ff, 81, 
83ff, 163ff, 210ff; proximate, 
164; related to choice, 37, 
110, llSflF, 147-48, 177; re- 
lated to punishment, 107-8, 
156; tcleological, 202ff 

Causal laws, 26, 58ff, 77, 95-6, 
122, 164, 171-72, 228, 239 

Chance: in history, 53; in phys- 
ics, 65-6, 83-4, 185, 197-98, 

Change, 43; as criterion of re- 
sponsibility, 131; in definition 
of "cause," 164-65, 217; in 
definition of "event," 19 

Chisholm, R. W., 157 

Choice: and disposition, 213; 
eflScacy of, as maximized by 
law, 109ff; freedom of, 20-1, 
95n, 119ff, 126ff, 157-58, 
167ff. 172, 176flf, 187ff, 212ff, 


248 / Determinism and Freedom 

232ff; meaning of, 21; system 
of, in criminal law, 109ff. See 
also Freedom 

Coleridge, S. T., 52 

Collins, A., 120 

Common sense, 183; criticism 
of, 23 Iff 

Complementarity, principle of, 
61, 89 

Completeness and incomplete- 
ness: in mathematics, 49; of 
physical knowledge, 160ff 

Compton effect, 207 

Consumer, 194 

Continuity: postulate of, 88; 
continuous creation of mat- 
ter, 223 

Contradiction, in mathematics, 

Counterf actual conditionals, 39, 
107, 171, 217 

Creativity, 179; in art, 51-2; in 
mathematics, 49, 50 

Darrow, C, 105, 123, 138, 190 
DeBroglie, L., 57, 66, 71 
Deduction, 70, 205, 215, 234 
Definition: and undefinability, 
211; by stipulation, 33, 216; 
formal and informal, 34; in 
quantum theory, 81, 90, 
204fT; ostensive, 217; paradig- 
matic, 34ff, 201-2; pragmatic 
criteria of, 166 
Denotation, 161 
Determinism: meaning of, 20, 
44, 48-9, 81, 90-1, 160ff. 
nOff, 204ff, 224ff; "soft" and 
"hard," 117ff, 126ff, 189-90, 
212ff, 224ff. See also Neces- 
sity; Causality; Predictability 
Dewey, J., 46, 177 
Difference, method of, 165 
Dignity, as basis of moral re- 

sponsibility, 189, 228 
Dilemma, of moral responsi- 
bility, 158 
Dispositions, as causes of moral 

actions, 174 
Ducasse, C. J., 160 

Economy of threats, doctrine 
of, 105ff 

EddLugton, A., 23, 24 

Edwards, Jonathan, 117, 178 

Edwards, P., 117, 126, 131, 
146fT, 152, 176ff, 187ff, 193, 
199, 200, 211, 212ff, 224-25, 
230, 242-43 

Einstein, A., 23, 57, 64, 77ff, 
201, 206ff 

Electron: definition of, 73; posi- 
tion and velocity of, 23-4, 
73-4, 80, 86, 161, 184 

Emergence, 166 

Entailment: analytic and syn- 
thetic, 216; in defining cau- 
sality, 164, 216; of a theory, 

Epistemology, 202ff, 237flf 

Erewhon, 115-16 

Event: definition of, 19; mental, 
26, 161-62, 181; physical, 22, 
161, 183, 196ff, 241; proba- 
bility of, 66; uniqueness of, 

Evidence: for determinism, 181- 
83; for fatalism, absence of, 
163; introspective, 173-75; 
of causal efficacy, 31; of vol- 
untary action, 113, 141 

Excusing conditions : distin- 
guished from invalidating 
conditions, 100; in law, 95ff, 
145ff, 149ff, 188ff, 193 

Fatalism, 47, 120, 162, 178-79 
Feigl, H., 172n, 222 

Frank, P., 172n, 173n, 204. 223 
Freedom: and indeterminism, 
19-20, 160ff, 232ff; as ab- 
sence of constraint, 37, 118- 
19, 146, 167-68, 212; as qual- 
ity of action, 38; as rational 
control, 29, 30, 189; feeling 
or sense of, 20-2, 29, 173, 
182, 212, 222; of will, 24, 
85, 95ff, 155-56, 162, 167-68, 
178, 226, 233; types of, 233ff. 
See also Choice 
Freud, S., 20, 117, 128, 210 

Galileo, 79 
Galton, F., 21 
Generalization: and causal 

laws, 165; by abstraction, 165 
God: and divine law, 122, 140; 

and foreknowledge, 51, 180; 

and prayer, 231 
Godel, K., 49-50 
Goodman, N., 202 
Green, T. H., 118 

Habit, related to moral respon- 
sibility, 127-28, 136-37 

Hall, A. J. B., 99n, 102 

Hart, H. L. A., 95, 145-46, 188, 
193, 225 

Heisenberg, W., 22, 51, 57flf, 
72, 80, 89, 186, 209 

Hempel, C. G., 170 

Hintz, H. W., 176 

History, unpredictability of, 54 

Hobbes, T., 118 

Holbach, P., 117, 129 

Hook. S., ix, 53, 180, 228 

Hospers, L, 126, 148, 181ff, 
193, 199, 200, 210, 224-25, 
230, 242-43 

Housman, A, E., 123-24 

Hume, D., 118ff, 140-41, 163- 
64, 179, 202-3 

Index / 249 

Indeterminism, see Determin- 
ism; Freedom; Choice; 

Induction: eliminative, 218; 
role in causal inference, 40 

Initial conditions, see Boundary 

Insanity, as excusing condition 
in law, 105-6 

Interference patterns, 59 

Introspection, 173-75 

James, W., 46, 117ff, 212 
Jennings, H. S., 161n, 166 
Jones, E., 128 

Justice, as basis of punishment, 
102ff; cost of. 194 

Kant, I., 29, 228 

Khayydm, Omar, 117 

Knowledge: distinguished from 
information, 80-1; limits of, 
74-5; meaning of, 222-23; re- 
lated to determinism, 163, 
205, 238ff; related to legal 
responsibility, lOOflf; related 
to virtue, 98ff; spectator 
theory of, 186 

Land6, A., 83, 89n, 183ff. 194, 
197-98, 223, 240-41 

Language: causal, 3 Iff, 43ff; of 
morals, 42, 129, 141; ordi- 
nary and scientific, 44, 156, 
183; rules of, 33ff 

Laplace, P. S., 50-1, 161 

Law: as mechanism for maxi- 
mizing efficacy of choice, 
llOff; causal, see Causal laws; 
criminal, 95ff 

Leibnitz, G. W., 87, 227 

Lemer, A., 193 

Levin, M., 133n, 138n 

250 / Determinism and Freedom 

Liability, 98ff, 145ff 

Logic, distinguished from ontol- 
ogy, 78. See also Deduction; 
Induction; Truth, logical 

Lowes, i. L., 52 

Mach, E., 90 
Marxism, 53, 114 
Materialism : and mechanism, 

174; criticism of, 25 
Mathematics: application of, to 

physics, 59-60, 173, 202ff, 

240-4 1 ; incompleteness of, 

Matson, W. L, viii, 139 
Maxwell, C, 206, 208 
McCulloch and Pitts, theory of 

trapped universals, 211 
Meaning: analysis of, 32, 96, 

160, 167; borderline cases of, 

33; criteria of, 36-7, 240; 

epistemological, 202ff; related 

to culture, 68 
Meaninglessness, 24, 140ff, 187, 

Measurement, in physics, 61, 

Mechanics: Newtonian, 62, 70, 

76, 90, 161-62, 198; quantum, 

57ff, 75flf, 83ff, 90flf, 183ff, 

197ff, 201flf 
Mens rea, in criminal law, lOlflf 
Metaphysics, 39, 158, 171, 237 
Michelson-Morley experiment, 

Mill, J. S., 118ff, 140-1, 179 
Modality, 225ff 
Moore, G. E., 176, 211 
Moral criticism, social utility 

of, 149fif 
Morality, 25; as basis of law, 

lOlff; as sense of duty, 29; 

feelings of, 124, 152; judg- 
ments of, 122ff, 146ff; lan- 

guage of, 42. See also Re- 
sponsibility, moral 
Munitz, M., 76, 183, 222, 241 

Nagel, E., 196 

Necessity: aesthetic, 182, 196; 
and sufficiency, 39, 40, 164, 
165, 182, 225; as compulsion, 
127ff, 214; causal, 224, 225, 
237; conditional, 39, 40; eco- 
nomic, 114; etiological, 165; 
historical, 53; logical, 27, 
120, 167, 168, 172, 180, 181, 
196, 216; mathematical, 50; 
moral, 28; nominal, 224; 
physical, 23, 24, 50, 203ff; 
problem of meaning of, 48, 
139, 170ff, 180 

Neumann, L von, 63, 86-87 

Neurath, O., 26 

Neurosis: definition of, 131; re- 
lated to moral responsibility, 
126ff, 146 

Newsom, C. V., 15 

Newton, L, 206ff. See also Me- 
chanics, Newtonian 

Noel-Smith, P. H., 118 

Nominalism, 202 

Northrop, F. S. C, 201 

Oedipal sources of motivation, 

Orwell, G., viii 
Owen, R., 117 

Pap, A., 212 

Parameter: "concealed," 62; 

statistical, 198 
Peirce, C. S., 46, 181 
Philosophy: and analysis, 203; 

distinguished from science, 

58, 76-7 
Photons, 59ff, 184, 242 
Physicalism, criticism of, 25 

Index / 251 

Planck, M., 22, 57, 63, 70, 73, 
91, 209 

Plato, 115 

Poincare, H., 51, 63 

Popper, K., 78, 84n, 222 

Possibility, causal and logical, 

Pragmatism, in scientific 
method, 78, 166, 180, 181, 
200, 238-39 

Praise and blame, 149ff, 168, 
177, 187ff 

Predestination, 178. See also 

Predictability and impredicta- 
bility: in art, 51; in definition 
of determinism, 150-54, 162- 
66, 180, 234, 237; in every- 
day life, 54; in history, 53; in 
mathematics, 48, 49; in phys- 
ics, 24, 50, 77ff, 85ff, 90-91, 
163, 172, 184ff; in psy- 
chology, 24, 51, 162; of psi 
function, 65 

Prediction, disadvantages of, 47; 
related to choice, 95n, 110, 
213; role in science, 81, 180, 

Pre-established harmony, 84 

Presuppositions, of causal state- 
ments, 41ff, 217 

Price, related to punishment, 

Priestley, J., 117, 120 

Probability, 218; epistemologi- 
cal, operational, ontological, 

. and theoretical, 203-204; in 
physics, 60ff, 90ff, 203fT; sub- 
jective and objective, 91 

Process: biological, 161; of 
creation, 223; of production, 
236; physical, 24, 231; psy- 
chical, 25 

Psi function, 60, 66, 198 

Psychoanalysis and psychiatry, 
22, 38, 51-52, 121, 126fif, 137, 
155, 220 

Punishment: deterrent theory 
of, 98fif, 190, 193-94; eco- 
nomic theory of, 193-94; 
Erewhon program of, 116; 
retributive theory of, 115-16, 
190-91; social utility of, 
149ff, 190-91, 194 

Purposive action, 161, 181, 229 

Quantum theory, see Mechan- 
ics, quantum 
Quine, W. V., 202, 207 

Randomness, 84ff, 183ff, 195, 
198, 223, 240-41 

Rationalism, in philosophy of 
science, 79 

Rationalization, 210 

Realism, in philosophy of sci- 
ence, 65-66, 79 

Reality: change in meaning of, 
61; ambiguity of, 66 

Reflex action, bearing on moral 
responsibility, 127 

Reid, T., 163, 228 

Relations: dyadic and monadic, 
161; triadic, 164; in defini- 
tion of "cause," 164-65 

Relativity, theory of, 78fr, 206ff 

Responsibility : criteria of, 
1191T, 127ff, 188ff, 219ff; 
dilemma of, 158; etiological, 
168; legal and criminal, 95ff, 
132ff. 168-69, 194ff, 220; 
meanings of, 141, 219-20, 
225-26; mental elements in^ 
99ff; moral, 25, 97ff, 117ff, 
145ff, 149ff, 157ff, 168-69,- 
176ff, 187ff, 193ff, 200, 210- 
11, 212ff, 219ff, 224ff, 243; 
reflective and unreflective 

252 / Determinism and Freedom 

conceptions of, \22S, 146; 
related to compulsion, 129- 
30; related to premeditation, 
127-28; subjective and objec- 
tive, 219-20 

Roberts, K. V., 90 

Ross, W. D., 23, 207 

Russell, B., 22, 73, 140, 172tt 

Russell, E. S., 161n 

Ryle, G., 167 

Schlick, M., 118ff, 140-41, 
172n, 179 

Schopenhauer, A., 117, 120 

Schrodinger, E., 57, 60, 66fif, 

Schutz, A., 219 

Sciama, D. W., 90, 222 

Self: as moral agent, 227ff, 242; 
problem of, 188; metaphysi- 
cal theory of, 158-59, 228 

Sellars, W., 172n 

Sentimentalism, and determin- 
ism, 180ff 

Sequence, regular and causal, 
163ff, 216 

Sidgwick, H., 20 

Simultaneity, 208; of cause and 
effect, 38 

Sin, related to law, 102-4 

Skinner, B. F., viii 

Spinoza, B., 138 

Statistical mechanics, see Me- 
chanics, quantum; Probabil- 
ity, in physics 

Stephen, J. F., 102 

Stevenson, C. L., 118 

Strawson, P. F., 217 

Sumner, W. G., 221 

Superego, 134 

Tautology, 202, 205, 216 
Taylor, R., 224 

Thucydides, 54 "* 

Time, 204fif 

Trotsky, L., 53 

Truth: and coimnon sense, 231; 
as timeless, 182; logical, 157, 
166, 180; of principle of uni- 
versal causality, 163ff; of sci- 
entific theories, 79-80 

Uncertainty, principal of, 60, 
79-80, 184ff, 209 

Unconscious, role in motiva- 
tion of, 52, 126ff 

Utilitarianism, as ground of 
punishment, 149fif, 189ff; in 
legal theory, 105flf 

Vagueness, 33flf, 75, 99; of 

moral concepts, 188; of 

philosophical concepts, 58; of 

physical concepts, 23 
Value: as secured by law, 115; 

of a variable, 48, 185, 239ff; 

of excusing conditions, 99ff; 

of psi function, 197 
Variables, 48, 70, 91, 184-85, 

205ff, 239fif 
Verification: of counterf actuals, 

217; of quantum theory, 91; 

of standards, 34; of theories, 

Voltaire, 120 
Voluntary action, see Freedom 

of will; Responsibility, moral; 

Responsibility, legal; Choice 

Weber, M., 219 
Weiss, P., 231 
Whitehead, A. N., 46, 179 
Williams, D., 207-8 
Williams, G., 102n, 106 
Wilson, H. V. R., 237 

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